Turin Tractor Parade
Banks this year’s grand marshal
by Sarah Fay Campbell
When Bill Banks and a few friends from Turin decided to travel to Carrollton in the early 1990s for the inaugural meeting of the West Georgia Two Cylinder Club, they had no idea what they were getting into.
They became members of the new antique tractor club. And it wasn’t too long before the club members asked, “Why don’t you do a show in Turin?”
So they did. And 20 years later, they still are.
The 20th annual Turin Antique Farm Power Show and Tractor Pull will be held Saturday in Turin.
The day-long event kicks off with the antique tractor parade through downtown Turin at 10 a.m. Then, it’s on to the nearby pulling field, where antique tractors, both stock and modified, as well as modern tractors, will compete in the pulling contests. There’s also the pedal race for kids 3 to 10 and the slow race, and a tractor show.
There will be plenty of food on hand, including barbecue made just for the event by Pat Stephens, and baked goods from the ladies of Turin United Methodist Church.
The pulls usually last until 5 or 6 p.m. Saturday.
Friday night, the town of Turin will celebrate with the annual street dance from 7-10 p.m. Jim McKnight will provide the music.
The street dance and the tractor events are fun for all ages.
“It’s awesome,” said Banks’ granddaughter, Elizabeth Tinsley, 11. “I like to see the tractors, especially the big tractors. That’s pretty cool. And I also get to see my friends."
Banks will be this year’s parade grand marshal. He said he tried to talk his fellow event organizers out of making him grand marshal, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Over the years, the event has grown, with improved equipment and grounds, and the addition of the “modern farm” class for newer tractors.
“Several years ago we built a set of scales,” Banks said. The tractors are divided into various weight classes.
Tractor drivers will usually weigh in and then add weights to their tractors, to make them as heavy as they can without going up to the next weight class. The weights add traction, making the tractor better equipped to pull the heavy sled a longer distance.
During a pull, the tractor driver tries to pull the large, heavy sled all the way down the track.
The front of the sled sits in the dirt, while the back of the sled is on wheels. Atop the sled is the weight box, which can be loaded with multiple 3,000-pound concrete slabs. As the sled is pulled, the weight box moves, by cables, from the back of the sled to the front. The closer it is to the front, the harder it is to pull.
The amount of weight is calculated so that most of the tractors in a certain weight class aren’t capable of making a full pull. An operator can sit in a seat on the side of the sled and control how fast the weight box moves up.
But they don’t want to make it too hard.
“You don’t want the sled to win every time. It’s good to let the tractor win some,” Banks said. “We don’t mind if two or three out of 10 do a full pull.” When that happens, all the tractors that get a full pull get to try again with more weight.
When a tractor can’t make a full pull, one of two things is happening. Either the tractor will choke down and not have enough power to pull the sled, or “they have enough power but are not heavy enough, so they spin out,” Banks said.
A few years ago, the Turin Antique Tractor Association was formed to be the official body that hosts the annual event. The association has been able to make investments in the pulling grounds, including a new sled and a large metal pavilion to keep spectators out of the sun. Banks said they hope to install a large fan in the next few years.
The association has also started providing a scholarship to an East Coweta High School graduating senior. In 2013, a $500 scholarship was awarded. This year, it was $1,000, and hopes are to make it $1,500 next year.
Banks has seven antique tractors, including two that his father, William Banks, bought when they farmed the land that is now the tractor pull site and the “Banks compound.”
Banks and his wife, Betty, have a home on their property. So do their son Billy and his family and their daughter Angela and her family, and Banks’ sister, also named Betty.
Banks is teaching Elizabeth how to drive his John Deere 50 Case SC tractor. “I haven’t been in the parade yet, but I want to,” she said.
As a child, Banks remembers plowing behind a mule for a few years, before his father bought their first tractor.
Banks still drives the John Deere 50 that his father bought new in 1954. He usually drives it in the parade, pulling a manure spreader decked out with seats. He also has the first tractor his father bought, a Farmall Cub. All total, Banks has seven antique tractors.
Banks picked cotton as a child, but “I never was real good at it,” he said. He remembers “operating a combine right here where the yard is.”
When he was a senior in high school, Banks had a conversation with his father about the future. His dad asked him what he was going to do with his life. “I said, ‘Well, you know, maybe I’ll just farm,’” Banks said.
His father told him that farming was changing. “If you’re going to farm you’ve got to have more land than we have and you need bigger equipment.”
“He said, “It’s going to take a large investment,’” Banks recalled. Where would that money come from?
Things were changing and his father could see it.
So Banks thought about it some and decided he would not farm for a living. He went to Berry College, and in just a few days, he met Betty. He majored in math for the first year and then switched to accounting. He’s been a certified public accountant for more than 35 years, commuting every day from the north side of Atlanta back to his farm in Turin.
The annual event is only possible with the work of many people, and Banks wants to thank his neighbor, Mrs. Carrasco, who graciously allows her property to be used for parking each year.
The pulling site itself used to be Banks’ father’s pea patch. They hauled in 75 truck loads of red clay and planted Bermuda grass to make it suitable for the pull and show.
“My dad is probably rolling over in his grave. This was a good field,” Banks said.
Everyone’s hoping for good weather for Saturday’s events. Some years, it has ended up being held on the hottest day of the year. Last year, a light rain almost forced a cancellation, but not quite.
While everyone was waiting on the rain to let up, “somebody went and got a couple of wheelbarrows. So they got out in the middle of the track and had wheelbarrow races – with somebody in the wheelbarrow,” Banks said. “It was a muddy mess.”
“Last year we got muddy and that was awesome,” Elisabeth said. “It was the best one ever.”
For more information on the event, visit www.turintractorpull.com. Or contact Banks at 678-300-4923, Geoff Tinsley at 678-300-1168 or Joe Christopher at 678-300-4790.