It started with a car hood and some weights.
You can't watch the sport on ESPN, and you won't read about it in Sports Illustrated.
You might remember seeing it once or twice at the Warren County Fair, but it's been a while.
Times Observer photo by Mitchell Wilston
Robbie Wilston (left) and Tyler Gourley demonstrate how to pull 'the boat,' which will be used in the Chandlers Valley Outdoors Festival's people pull on August 25.
Despite a lull in recent years, the sport of people-pulling is coming back.
Yes, people-pulling. As in, take your standard tractor pull, take out the tractor, and add people.
Haven't heard of it?
At 11 a.m. Saturday, during the Chandlers Valley Outdoor Festival, people-pulling is making a comeback.
Marlene Falconer, the festival's coordinator, claims that Sugar Grovian Gary Gourley invented the sport all by himself.
"He originated it, I don't know when. He got it started and went around to different fairs and got people interested in it. You'll have to ask him," said Falconer.
"Oh yeah, I invented it! With a car hood in the early 80's, I swear!" said Gourley.
The sport started simple, and now it's, well, still simple. But that's the point.
"Me and my cousin were working at the farm, pulling feed carts, and we thought, 'this would be a great competition,'" said Gourley. "So we rigged up a car hood and put weights on it," said Gourley.
"It started in Bear Lake at a festival on Labor Day weekend," he said. "It was on a Saturday night and we were using the car hood. We pulled it and a couple people joined in, but not a lot. After everyone saw it, though, they asked us to have it again, so we went back on Monday night and there were at least 20 different teams."
It wasn't until a while later that the old detached car hood would be abandoned.
"We were pulling one time in Spartansburg, and that's where they gave us the 'boat,'" said Gourley. "It was used for lawn-mower pulls (another story), but the guys said we could have it and we've been using it ever since," said Gourley.
The "boat" he refers to is the sled that weights are put on. After an evener is connected to the boat, two people are chained to it and ready for the competition.
There aren't many rules; there doesn't need to be:
1. There is a 10-foot, 20-second time limit;
2. No locking arms or reaching back and grabbing the chain;
3. No cleats.
It's a simple competition, but that doesn't mean it's easy.
The record pull is over one ton, and back when it was still being done at fairs, people out-pulled the horses.
"One year we went down to the fair and the guy in charge of the pony pulls got a hold of me," said Gourley. "He wanted to know if we could get a three-horse evener and have six guys pull against the ponies. We had to stay under the weight limit of the horses and we had a driver on the boat, but we did it and beat all of the pairs but one."
Saturday's competition won't have ponies, but there will be plenty of room for bragging rights for who's the toughest.
That's who Gourley says this competition is for: "Whoever thinks they're tough," he said.
If you're not a fan of dragging your shoes through the mud, or your knees just can't handle the sport, there's plenty more to do at the Outdoors Festival.
The Sportsman Challenge, which starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, is another big draw for the festival. Although the competition changes year to year, last year saw the competitors canoeing, target shooting, setting bear-traps (really), and throwing axes.
There will also be a pie-baking contest, a photo contest, food vendors, a DeeJay, and a Chinese auction (www.chandlersvalleycommunitycenter.org).
"I'm hoping it's for everyone," said Falconer, "It's kind of a country atmosphere. Chandler's Valley is certainly out in the country. But I don't think it has to be a hunter or a fisherman to come out and try the competitions. Give it a try and have fun."