Town gunning for tug-of-war victory

Sarah Pruys

Fort Frances is planning to beat International Falls once again in the “Pulling for Peace” tug-of-war coming up July 2, but the town needs your help.
“The score right now is three wins for Canada, one win for the United States, one tie, and one win for Mother Nature,” noted Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, referring to last year’s wash-out due to a severe storm.
“And then there were a couple of years we didn’t have it,” he added.
This year’s tug-of-war, officially entitled “Pulling For Peace,” will feature three different pulls: the “celebrity” pull, the “community” pull, and the “power” pull.
“We’re starting the introductions of the ‘celebrity team’ at 4:30 p.m. at the Sorting Gap Marina,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said.
“The ‘celebrity team’ consists primarily of our council versus their council,” he explained.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft added the Falls’ team also will feature some alumni from the Minnesota Vikings.
“They’ve gone a little bit bigger in their ‘celebrity team,’ primarily because they’ve got a little bit more money to attract bigger celebrities,” he remarked.
“We’re trying to get celebrities, but we’ve got virtually no money to even pay their way down here and back.
“So most of our ‘celebrity team’ are local people, and that’s good, too.”
The town did manage to get Jamshed Merchant, the Canadian Counsel General based in Minneapolis, to attend this year’s event.
“His responsibility is promotion of trade and economics between the five bordering states in the Midwest and Canada,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft said.
Merchant also will ride on town council’s float during the Canada Day parade.
Following the “celebrity” pull at 5 p.m., which will consists of 22 Canadians versus 22 Americans, is the “community” pull at 5:30.
“The 22 celebrities are each going to go and pick one male and one female from the audience, over 16 years of age, to pull in the ‘community’ pull,” explained Coun. Wiedenhoeft.
Those interested in being picked from the audience are asked to gather by the mermaid sculpture along the riverfront.
Then the “power” pull’ will follow at 6 p.m.
“It’s for all the marbles,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted. “It’s for the trophy, it’s for the bragging rights.
“That’s the one we keep track of,” he added. “That’s the one that we’re up 3-1 against the Americans.”
The “power” pull will feature 28 males and 16 females on each side. Those interested in being on the Canadian team can contact co-ordinator Jackie Lampi-Hughes at Energy Fitness.
The female spots already have been filled while there are about 10 places left for males.
Members of the “power” pull team will receive T-shirts and tug-of-war gloves.
“This year, we have Boston Pizza and the ‘hotdog man’ [selling food],” noted Coun. Wiedenhoeft, adding 10 percent of the profits will go to a yet-to-be determined charity.
“Pulling For Peace” has been quite successful in the past.
“We’ve had 200 or 300 people cheering us on,” said Coun. Wiedenhoeft, who hopes this year will be no different.
“The more, the merrier,” he enthused. “If you don’t want to pull, you can always cheer us on.
“We don’t want to lose our 3-1 advantage, we don’t want the Americans to win,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed.
“We want to keep beating them at this tug-of-war game so we retain the bragging rights.”
Coun. Wiedenhoeft said the competition started back when former Fort Frances mayor Dan Onichuk wanted to develop a closer relationship with the City of International Falls, both on a friendly basis and on an economic basis.
He envisioned the tug-of-war as one way of getting together.
“In the past, we’ve had competitions between the two councils in baseball games and snowshoe races, but that fell by the wayside,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft recalled.
“So Dan Onichuk wanted to do something that would bring the two communities together, and maybe promote economic stimulus if we could get people coming here to celebrate the tug-of-war.
“Now we’re trying to grow the tug-of-war, along with the Dragon Boat Festival, which occurs on [Canada Day],” he noted.
“We’re trying to grow this into potentially a four-day festival.”
Ideally, organizers would like July 1 to be all about the dragon boats, then July 2 will be “Pulling For Peace.”
July 3 would see the Falls planning an event, then culminating with Independence Day festivities there July 4.
“The problem that we have is that these days don’t always fall on a weekend,” Coun. Wiedenhoeft remarked. “Quite often they fall in the middle of the week.
“Because they’re working days, it’s difficult for people to get away for four days in a row in the middle of the week,” he conceded.
“[But] ultimately that’s our goal—to create a festival atmosphere over the four days.”