Event provides entertainment & sense of normalcy

By Anna Carrera

Published 01/17 2014 07:25PM

Updated 01/17 2014 10:42PM

GIFFORD -- There's a familiar sound in Champaign County, but it's not construction equipment. It was just outside Gifford at Gordyville, USA. That's where the Midwest Winter Nationals is happening this weekend. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera talks to some Central Illinois families competing there who hope to win.

They put the bulldozers and other construction tools away for the weekend. Now, the focus turns to tractors. People say this event brings their families closer together.

Life around Gifford isn't quite the same as it was before the tornado.

"Great day," said Kevin Johnson. "A little snow outside, but indoors, where it's warm, we're tractor-pulling today."

Tractor-pulling is a tradition for some families like Johnson's.

"My dad and my uncle got us into truck pulling," said Johnson. "And we started pulling in rural Illinois when I was 5 years old."

Years later, the Johnson's are some of the best pullers around. They took first place in one of the competitions Thursday night.

"Yes, we did," said Johnson. "We were very, very lucky. This is actually the sixth time winning, so we're very fortunate, especially being this close to home."

Home for the Johnson's is in Gifford.

"We had friends who lost their homes," said Johnson. "When we got there fifteen minutes afterwards, all you saw was 2 x 4's and insulation."

Even people from out-of-town say they can see how much things have changed.

"Some of the houses you've been going by for years are gone and the trees are stripped, the hedgerows are full of debris," said Tim Harms, who lives in St. Joseph and came to Gifford to see the tractor-pull.  

"We're blessed with what we do have and we still have everybody here," said Johnson. 

The tractor-pull wraps up Saturday at Gordyville. Next weekend, there's a benefit concert at Gordyville for tornado relief.

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