Friday, November 2, 2007

Pea Festival arrives, hits the big time!

The following missive is from my favorite Pea-R guy, Bill Dailey, in Emerson, Ark...

Emerson’s Tiller Race in 2008 Old Farmer’s Almanac

One of the Ark-La-Tex's most unusual sporting events is currently featured in a national publication.

Emerson’s World Championship Rotary Tiller Race has made it into the 2008 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The race of souped-up garden tillers, the marquee event of the annual Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival, is featured in a section of the almanac highlighting unusual or “quirky” competitions in the United States and Canada.

“You know the sport has arrived when it makes it into the Old Farmer’s Almanac,” says Bill Dailey, spokesman for the festival. “I was wondering why the festival was suddenly getting emails from all over the country asking about tiller racing.”

The World Championship Rotary Tiller Race began in 1990, the first year of the festival’s existence. At the time, it was thought a race of garden tillers would be an appropriate, quaint side event, given tillers were widely used to grow purple hull peas in local backyard gardens.

Since then, it’s grown into a monster.

In the very first race, 16-year-old Jason Hines surprised event organizers when he showed up with a tiller that he and his grandfather had modified for speed. In following years, racers arrived with tillers using various combinations of engines and homemade tiller tines.

“We went through a period when alcohol burning engines were all the rage,” said Dailey. “We’ve even had electric tillers there. Now it’s mostly back to gasoline.”

The current world record is held by Shane Waller of Junction City, Arkansas, who in 2005 tilled the 200-foot track of plowed ground in 5.72 seconds, an average speed of almost 24 miles-per-hour.

The Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival & World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is held annually on the last weekend in June. The 2008 event will be June 27-28.