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Potluck: Tug Fest

Le Claire

Pulling for Bragging Rights

Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner
and Mary Gottschalk

Tug Fest is arguably the longest tug-of-war in the world, using a 2,400-foot rope that weighs 680 pounds. It’s the only known tug-of-war to close down a major world river — the Mississippi — pitting teams in Le Claire, Iowa, against teams across the river in Port Byron, Illinois. More than 35,000 gather annually to watch a team of 20 men (or 25 women) pull against a corresponding team on the other side of the river. Clocks are synchronized, and the team that pulls in more rope in three minutes wins.

“When you think how important the Mississippi River is — how famous it is — and we get to pull a rope across it?” says Matt Thoene, who started tugging 18 years ago when he was 16. “It doesn’t get any better than that.” Thoene now serves as Iowa Tugmaster, organizing and training Iowa pulling teams.

Over the past 25 years, the score has been fairly even, but Illinois is pulling ahead, having won the last five contests. 

Root for the Iowa side at this year’s Tug Fest, August 9–11. The Tug begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit — C.B.

Photo © Crawford

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