The American Rental Association and Rental Management are based in Moline, Ill., but I live in LeClaire, Iowa. If you’ve never heard of LeClaire, it is the birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody and the original home of the “American Pickers” TV show and Antique Archaeology.
LeClaire also hosts one of the more unique events you’ll ever see: Tug Fest, which is usually held the second weekend in August. A 720-lb., 2,400-ft. rope is stretched across the Mississippi River. River traffic is stopped for about three hours while 11 teams representing LeClaire and Port Byron, Ill., compete by seeing who can pull the most rope to their side of the river.
Each tug lasts three minutes, a test of both strength and endurance. Each side has 10 men’s teams and one women’s team. There are 20 people on each of the men’s teams and
25 on each of the women’s teams.
For the first time in six years, Iowa won six contests on Aug. 10 to claim the traveling Alabaster Eagle trophy as the winner of Tug Fest 2013. In the 27 years the event has been held, Illinois has won 16 times to Iowa’s 11.
After a six-year drought, I’ll admit to enjoying the opportunity to have bragging rights for a year now that Iowa won this time, even if I wasn’t one of those pulling on the rope.
Part of the credit for the win also goes to Altorfer Rents, The Cat Rental Store, which has branches in nearby Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and has been a sponsor of Tug Fest for at least the last eight years.
Shad Nelson, a field service technician for Altorfer in Davenport, also served as one of four tug masters for LeClaire and Altorfer Rents sponsored a tug team that won its contest to help LeClaire claim the trophy.
“Altorfer also does a lot for the fair in Davenport and they had been doing scaffolding for Tug Fest in LeClaire for years when I approached them eight years ago to do more,” Nelson says.
“As an in-kind sponsor, Altorfer donates a skid-steer, forks, a bucket tiller, scaffolding, Club Cars, an air compressor for the air horn and more, plus the time and labor to set it all up and make sure everything is secure,” Nelson says.
The event includes a three-day carnival on the levee in LeClaire, entertainment, a parade, a Friday night half-hour fireworks display over the Mississippi River, a 5K run and then the Saturday tugs. A local TV station this year estimated that the event brought more than 30,000 people to LeClaire and Port Byron.
“It’s a huge boost, not just for the towns, but for the economy as a whole,” Nelson says, adding that the economic impact and community support also are reasons Altorfer is involved.
Altorfer Rents isn’t the only rental store that supports its communities and local charities. Last October, the American Rental Association (ARA) and the ARA Foundation kicked off “ARA Makes a Difference in Your Community Month” as a way to highlight how rental operators and their employees, either individually or as a group, give back to their communities.
This October, as outlined in Connie Lannan’s story on page 77 of this issue, ARA and the ARA Foundation will team up again for another celebration of giving to honor how ARA members give back to their communities.
To share how you and/or your employees give back, contact Jenni Venema, ARA Foundation director of development, at 800-334-2177, ext. 236, or email@example.com, by Sept. 18. Let her know what you have been doing, how you got involved and what it means to you to give back in this way.
In the meantime, I just want to thank Nelson, Altorfer Rents, everyone on the LeClaire Tug Fest Committee, the event volunteers, the rest of the event’s many sponsors and those that pulled enough rope to bring the trophy home. To paraphrase the immortal Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Carey, “Iowa wins! Iowa wins! Iowa wins!”