MILLINOCKET, Maine — The roaring, spitting sounds of engines running at maximum capacity will be audible at the Millinocket Regional Airport on Friday, but they won’t be on any airplanes.
The Northern Timber Cruisers Truck Pull is back.
At least 3,000 people are expected for the two-day event, the first of two such truck and tractor pulls the club has scheduled at the airport this year, said Eldon Pelletier, one of the patriarchs of the Pelletier family of “American Loggers” fame and a leading organizer of the event.
“Last year we had about 3,500 people. Hopefully we will get as much this year and hopefully more,” Pelletier said. “We have a good pulling track and our facilities are in a good location and we have all kinds of good food.”
The Pelletier family built the pull track for free alongside one of the airport’s two runways in 2010 to raise money for the club’s efforts to build multiuse recreational trails in the Katahdin region, maintain the club’s snowmobile trails, and draw more people and businesses to the Katahdin region.
Its inaugural truck and tractor pull, in September 2010, had traffic into the airport 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 still were pulling into the parking lot alongside the closed runway for an hour after the event began. Crowds filled the bleachers and lined the opposite side of the track at least three deep.
That spurred plans to increase the number of races.
This year, club members and other volunteers installed lights, extra bleachers and added food stands on both sides of the two-lane track to make it more convenient and comfortable for spectators, Pelletier said. The lights will allow the event to run into the night and be cooler for spectators.
Held in memory of the late Gerald Pelletier, last year’s 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 track earned good reviews from most of its dragster drivers last year and Pelletier said he was confident that it would again this year. Eleven classes of trucks and tractors will run on both days and $5,000 in prize money will be awarded each day, Pelletier said.
The event is among more than 20 truck and tractor pulls scheduled statewide until October, according to mainestatetruckandtractorpullers.com, the website for the Maine State Truck and Tractor Pullers Association.
The main gates will open at 3 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Saturday. Registration of trucks and tractors will start at 4 p.m. and competitions at 6 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, vehicle registration begins at 2 p.m. and competition starts at 4 p.m.
Adults will be charged $10 admission, with children under 12 free.