Turf rivals: Tractor pull, poetry
On Super Bowl Sunday, fans of farm machinery and free verse will dare to swim against the mainstream at two separate events.
By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2001
Unlikely allies, poets and tractor pullers will be united in a common cause Sunday, sending up their cri du coeur:
Super Bowl, Schmuper Bowl.
Organizers of two events have chosen to go head to head with one of the world's biggest sporting events, which will draw thousands of fans to the Tampa Bay area.
"The people that take part in our tractor pull couldn't care less about Super Bowl," said Jean Grant, administrator of the Citrus County Fair Association and organizer of the second annual Tractor Show and Pull, which runs Friday through Sunday. "We have people coming from Vermont, Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota. We're expecting thousands of fans if the weather holds. It's big boys with big toys."
A good turnout is also expected at the Lawnchair Poetry Festival, at 3 p.m. Sunday at Gulfport's Clymer Park.
"The talk around town here indicates we'll get quite a few," said Frank Hibrandt of the Gulfport Arts Council, the festival sponsor. "We have 10 poets registered right now. But you don't have to preregister to participate."
The tractor show and pull will feature regular and vintage farm tractors competing in several categories. They attempt to pull a "sled" loaded with a weight across the finish line. If they make it, the feat is known as a full pull.
The event shares with Super Bowl a climate of intense competition.
"They blow out their engines and transmissions," Grant said of the tractor drivers.
Hibrandt and Grant say they have heard little concern over the schedule conflict.
"The only person who said anything was my husband," Grant said.
Jorge Acosta, who lives in Tampa, is one of the poets registered to read at the festival.
"This silly thing, the Super Bowl, becomes all-encompassing for the place that hosts it. I'm going to do anything possible not to watch it," he said.
Acosta and several other poets have written "anti-Super Bowl" poems for the occasion.
"I don't think it is great poetry," he said. "But I do think it makes a point."
The poetry festival is not enveloped in glitzy parties and celebrity appearances as the Super Bowl is, but the tractor pull advertises a number of special events, including a Friday dinner hosted by the Citrus County Cattlemen in the Horticultural Building on the fairgrounds for $7 and a tractor parade at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Both events tout their affordability compared with Super Bowl tickets, which can cost thousands of dollars.
"Spectator tickets are $8 at the gate," Grant said.
"The poetry festival is free as air," Hibrandt said.
Grant does not think the Super Bowl will affect the tractor event, which she says is "a family thing. Mama, papa and children come. The family that pulls together stays together, so to speak."
And football fans who seek lodging in Inverness, which will be ground zero for tractor aficionados, had best look elsewhere.
"The Central Hotel is sold out and the Crown Hotel is almost full," Grant said. "This is big."
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If you go
The Citrus County Tractor Show and Pull is at the Citrus County Fairgrounds, 3600 S Florida Ave., Inverness, from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday "or until everyone has finished pulling," said organizers. For information about schedule, tickets or registration, call (352) 726-2993.
The Lawnchair Poetry Festival will be Sunday in Gulfport's Clymer Park, between Gulfport and Beach boulevards. Poets sign in at 2:30 p.m. The festival begins at 3 p.m. No end time is scheduled. The festival is free. For information, call (727) 384-9064.
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