By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
One of the biggest community events in the southern part of Edgecombe County – the Pinetops 300 – is set for Friday and Saturday at its usual spot – 309 School St. at the ballpark in Pinetops. The truck and tractor pull, South Edgecombe Rural Fire Department’s fundraiser of the year, is a longstanding tradition.
“People just expect it; it’s very much a part of the community,” said Chester Lancaster, event coordinator and fire department member. “We have the longest running not-for-profit tractor pull in the Southeastern United States – 37 years.”
The Pinetops 300 has won several awards, including the 2010 National Tractor Pullers Association Regional/ National Pull of the Year. Judging from past years’ attendance, Lancaster expects about 5,000 people to attend the two-night event. The event traditionally draws people from Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, states where tractor pulling is popular. The Pinetops 300 is at the beginning of the tractor-pulling season, which helps draw large crowds, said Lancaster.
“It’s one of the first opportunities to pull for the National Tractor Puller Association points championship,” said Lancaster. “The guys have been working on their stuff all year; they’re pretty anxious to try it out.”
Pulling is definitely a “go big or go home” kind of sport, and the guys at the Pinetops 300 give it their all.
“It’s like any other sport. You don’t come to go half throttle; you come to go full throttle,” said Lancaster.
Prizes will be awarded in a number of classes, including the ever-popular four-wheel drive class. Up for the taking is a purse of more than $40,000, which will be split between the two nights of the event and six classes.
The Pinetops 300 will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday and won’t end until at least 11 p.m. each night.
“This is not a one-hour show; it’s a long event,” said Lancaster. This year, a Saturday morning event will add to the weekend fun in Pinetops.
“Every year we try to evolve something new. This year, we’ve taken on a joint venture with the SouthWest Edgecombe High School band. They are having a car show that day (Saturday) starting at 10 a.m. We’re trying to make this event more like a festival, all weekend,” said Lancaster. The car show will take place in downtown Pinetops, at the intersection of Hamlet and First Street.
He said Pinetops 300 has developed a reputation as a “good family event” attended by people of all ages. Folks at the truck and tractor pull will have their pick of fair-style foods, including roasted corn, smoked turkey legs, chicken wings, hot dogs and funnel cakes. Alcohol won’t be sold, but event attendees can bring their own, as long as they maintain orderly conduct. The Pinetops Police Department will handle security at the event.
All the proceeds from the Pinetops 300 will benefit the South Edgecombe Rural Fire Department, and the event typically raises between $25,000 and $35,000 for the department. Lancaster said everything from diesel fuel to firefighting equipment is “very expensive,” and the department had 375 fire and first responder calls last year.
Admission to the Pinetops 300 is $20 for adults and $6 for children ages 12 and under. Children will be admitted free Friday night with a paying adult.