MILLINOCKET, Maine — Maine’s premier truck and tractor pull track might soon be found at Millinocket Municipal Airport thanks to donations from the stars of TV’s “American Loggers.”
Rudy and Eldon Pelletier had Gerald Pelletier Inc. logging crews on Friday digging a 500-foot-long, 60-foot-wide permanent track near what Town Council Chairman Scott Gonya called the less-used of the airport’s two runways.
Crews will employ as much as 1,500 yards of clay donated by Medway gravel pit owners John and Alan Levesque in making the track. They hope to finish it by Friday, Eldon Pelletier said.
“A pull track is normally 300 to 350 feet long. We’re building this one 500 feet to make sure we can maneuver around it,” Eldon Pelletier said Friday. “We are doing what I hope is an A-1 class job so that when we have events they will bring in hundreds of people.
“If the track is built right, we might even have national competitors come in,” he added.
Plans include using the pull track for truck or tractor pulls three or four times per summer to raise funds for the Northern Timber Cruisers club and its efforts to create and maintain all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trails, said Town Councilor John Raymond, a club trails committee member.
“We will concentrate on getting one event off [this year], learn from that, and go from there,” Raymond said.
The track’s inaugural truck pull is set tentatively for September, he said.
Organizers hope eventually to add bleachers, utilities, lights, a loudspeaker system, concession stands and other amenities to the track area, Rudy Pelletier said. The items probably will have to be portable so as not to interfere with airport operations.
He said he could even see automotive drag racing occurring on the old runway.
“Actually, you can pull anything you want on it — lawn mowers, garden tractors,” Eldon Pelletier said.
The airport is a designated emergency landing site for any aircraft that needs it, but can be closed for 24 to 48 hours with proper notice to fliers, Gonya said.
The Town Council informally approved at its meeting Thursday the creation of the track. Formal approval will come at the council’s May 13 meeting. Councilors allowed the work to commence before either approval to allow the Pelletiers to finish the job before their seasonal logging work starts.
Councilors were pleased that the Pelletiers were working with the Northern Timber Cruisers on the track.
“It’s a minimal cost to the town and it should help our economy,” Gonya said.
“The benevolence of the Pelletier family is just very heartwarming. They are really going the extra mile,” he added. “I think they are going to continue to help our community survive.”
The town Public Works Department donated several trucks to haul clay, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said.
Millinocket contractor Wayne Lapierre also donated trucks, Raymond said.
“This is a great event that the town will benefit from,” Councilor Jimmy Busque said. “What will make this work is that the town has a perfect facility, the airport, and the Pelletiers have the expertise in equipment and know-how.
“I also believe that this will lead to more events like this in the future. All of this is good news,” he added.
The Pelletier brothers said they had no idea how much the track’s construction would earn them if they billed for it. They said they plan on continuing work on the project over the summer.
The family’s previous charity efforts for the town include clearing about 4 acres, expanding and leveling a dirt road and digging a drainage ditch along the road as part of the Jerry Pond revitalization effort in 2009.
The family helped build the region’s first ATV trail and a multiuse trail used mostly by snowmobiles that runs from Penobscot Avenue near the new Pelletier Loggers Family Restaurant to a multiuse recreational bridge outside town.
Conlogue called the Pelletiers’ charity the finest kind because it benefits everybody, including them.
“If these guys aren’t doing these things, we are in trouble on all three projects,” he said. “I hope it does benefit them. More importantly they are good community citizens and I hope that this helps the community.”
Now in its second season, their Discovery Channel show “is bringing unbelievably good publicity to this community,” Conlogue added.
Tourists from hundreds of miles away have flocked to the restaurant since it opened last month thanks to the show, he said. Five flew into the airport recently just to eat at Pelletier’s.
“Where do you find people like this? It’s extremely rare. They are willing to share,” Conlogue said. “I couldn’t be more happy or appreciative.”