YORKTON - When Joe Hoffart was very young, back in the 1970s, his father Rod was into tractor pulling.
“I was really young,” he said, adding he can’t recall those days in great detail, past an interest in tractors.
Eight years ago, the Odessa-based, driver made a return to the sport.
“We had one left, (a pulling tractor),” he said Friday afternoon in an interview ahead of the Yorkton Hyundai Thunder in the Parkland.
That one tractor was enough to set the younger Hoffart back into the sport in a major way.
“Now we’re back up to five,” he said, explaining the rigs include a two-wheel drive truck, a micro-mini, a mini modified and two tractors, one sporting three engines.
So does Hoffart have a favourite to drive?
“My big three-engine is fun. They’re all fun. They’re all unique – different every time,” he said.
“Plus we own the sleds,” he added.
The sleds are integral aspect of an event, and Hoffart said there are probably only about four in all of Canada. The two he owns, one for minis that is also used for vintage tractor pulling, and one used for the big pullers were purchased in Wisconsin.
While the sleds are integral to an event, another key element is the track. Hoffart explained the conditions, how much moisture is in the dirt, the compaction, are keys to have a great competition.
“It’s a challenge getting that just right,” he said, adding Yorkton’s track has generally been a good one. “It’s one of the better ones.”
Over the summer Hoffart, his tractors and sleds hit eight to 10 events through the Prairie Pulling League (PPL). The first of 2022 was in Morris, Man. last weekend, and after the Yorkton runs today and Saturday, they will compete next in his hometown of Odessa, population about 200.
“We have a great show for a small town,” he said, adding it is held as a fundraiser for the community, and has been so successful they are building a new community hall.
“We start digging dirt this week,” he said.
While it took Hoffart some years to follow in his father’s footsteps in the sport, his son is getting an early start, already driving a rig at age eight.
“It’s three generations of pulling now,” said Joe Hoffart.
While many drivers get their start through family connections, Hoffart said he is trying to attract a new generation to the sport.
“You put them in the seat once they’re hooked – literally. It’s such a fun sport,” he said.
And, it need not be super expensive to start, with many new drivers opting for a mini puller.
“If you build it yourself . . . build it from scratch with used parts . . . you can do it pretty reasonably – under $5,000,” suggested Hoffart, adding to buy a competitive mini would be $15-$20,000.
It does help if you are something of a mechanic, added Hoffart, who noted he was not especially adept at it early on.
“Dad was a mechanic. I helped him pull wrenches but wasn’t really interested,” he said, adding he has since learned as a driver he had no real choice but to learn how to do fixes.
“It’s tough if you can’t do the work yourself,” he said, adding a key to the sport is sort of a ‘Zen’ patience. “. . . It’s knowing stuffs going to break. As long as you know things are going to break you won’t be disappointed when they do.”
The Hoffart rigs will be part of 50-60 trucks and tractors expected in Yorkton, plus the vintage tractors.
“With the antiques there’ll be 100 hooks,” he said.
The Yorkton event has been a fixture on the PPL schedule for years. Hoffart said that is because it has community support from volunteers to sponsors supporting it.
“The community stands behind it,” he said.
Vintage pulls start in front of the Legacy Co-op Grandstand at 5 p.m. today and Saturday with the big rigs starting at 6:15 p.m. both days.