MILLINOCKET, Maine — With their inaugural effort scarcely behind them, the organizers of the Northern Timber Cruisers Truck Pull are already planning for two more events next year, they said Wednesday.
Next year’s plans are far from finalized, but the success of Saturday’s event, which drew almost 4,000 people to Millinocket Regional Airport and grossed $33,820, has Timber Cruisers club members and town officials hopeful they can hold truck pulls in July and September 2011, club president David Moore said.
“It was just fantastic,” Moore said of Saturday’s event. “We did far, far better than we expected to do. Everything went really very well.”
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue called the truck pull “one of the most outstanding events this town has seen in years.”
“We had more participants than we expected and the spectators came in numbers far beyond what we expected,” Conlogue said Wednesday. “That is a huge event for a small town [hosting an event] on a first-time basis.”
The truck pull will likely net about $2,000. That might seem paltry compared to the gross receipts, until one considers that the inaugural event allowed the club to pay all of the expenses associated with the construction of the 500-foot-long, 60-foot-wide track at the airport, Moore said.
Those expenses include:
• $5,840 for the purchase of the desk-size cement blocks that line the track as a safety precaution.
• Almost $7,000 for the track construction itself.
• $3,736 in clay and trucking expenses.
• Almost $9,000 in trophies and prize money.
• $400 in leasing and permitting.
• $630 for the construction of the truck ramp.
“I am just flabbergasted. I figured we would be in the red and holding money on the track for two or three more truck pulls,” Moore said.
The event would have been impossible without help from the Pelletier family of “American Loggers” fame, Moore said. Gerald Pelletier Inc. crews dug near one of the local airport’s two runways, with the support of town leaders, as part of their plans to make the track one of New England’s premier tractor- and truck-pull sites while raising money for the club’s efforts to build multiuse recreational trails in the Katahdin region.
“We paid for the fuel and some of the big equipment,” Moore said. “They [the Pelletiers] donated way, way more than $7,000 of in-kind services.”
Once they saw how successful the event would be, the club and most of the companies that had planned to donate time and effort agreed the donors would get some money while still giving the club a break on costs. For example, the 1,600 yards of clay from Medway gravel pit owners John and Alan Levesque cost the club $1 a yard, “which is a very reasonable price,” Moore said.
Traffic to get into the truck pull was so thick that it stretched from the airport on Medway Road to Rice Farm Road, at least two miles away. It came in such a steady stream that vehicles were still pulling into the parking lot alongside the closed runway for an hour after the event’s 2 p.m. start.
Crowds filled the bleachers and lined the opposite side of the track at least three deep.
Held in memory of the late Gerald Pelletier, the event attracted major sponsors, including Dysart’s, Daigle & Houghton Inc., Mack Truck, Bangor Truck and Trailer Inc., and Freightliner and Western Star of Maine Inc. About 25 club members worked as volunteers at the event.
During the event, the airport’s main runway was open as normal, and the secondary runway was open essentially to emergency landings only.
The permanent pull track gives the Katahdin region and the snowmobile, cross country skiing and ATV club a distinction that few Maine towns and clubs can claim, Moore said.
“How many clubs own a track? It’s our calling card and these towns definitely need that,” Moore said. “We have a good handle on what we need to do to make [future events] better, too.”
Eldon Pelletier said he thought the pull track could become another of Millinocket’s many tourist attractions. Besides nearby Baxter State Park, the Katahdin region features world-class snowmobiling, and multiuse trail aficionados hope that their efforts will make the region as well known for ATV riding.
“It’s a good advertisement for the town and maybe it will bring more people into Millinocket in the future. It’s pretty much to put Millinocket on the map, actually,” Pelletier said of his company’s pull-track efforts. “Millinocket is a fun place to be.”
Conlogue said the town owes a debt to many people and organizations for the event’s success, but none moreso than the Pelletiers.
“Not only did they build that track, but [they] did the major work on getting pullers and sponsors here and raising purse money,” Conlogue said. “When they do things, they do them first class.”