TugFest: The Mississippi River Tug-of-War Between Iowa and Illinois
You have to see this to believe it. Whether you’re an Iowan, an Illinoisan or just a fan of the absurd, TugFest is the road trip destination of the summer. It all starts in August on the banks of Port Byron, Iowa, and on the other side of the Mississippi River, on the banks of LeClaire, Illinois. With a tug-of-war rope stretched out across the river, male and female teams from Iowa and Illinois battle it out until one team loses ground. It sounds too crazy to be true, but it happens every year and crowds of over 35,000 people come to watch on either side.
TugFest began in 1987 when Charles “Boots” Knapp thought the town of Byron, Iowa could use a little bit of absurd fun–and the Mississippi River seemed a good a place as any for a state-to-state competition tug of war. He didn’t think it would work, but over 25 years later, the dream is still alive. Each state’s hand-picked team (one of women, one of men) tug a 2,400-foot, 680-pound rope for approximately three minutes. The winners not only receiving bragging rights for their state, but an amazing party afterward with tens of thousands of supporters. Both sides of the river, from the downtown bars to the diners, get into the celebration atmosphere, and with this many people out for the event, the festivities continue for the rest of the weekend.
For those of you keeping score, Illinois has won a total of 15 tugs to Iowa’s 10. As a current resident of Illinois, I have to take a little pride in this. I’ll be heading to TugFest this August and cheering on the great state of Illinois. Which side will you be cheering for?
By Ella Whardon