EAST AMWELL TWP. – Smoke, dust and noise! The more, the merrier. That’s the lure for the hundreds of fans expected for the tractor and truck pull contests at the Hunterdon County 4-H & Agricultural Fair.

The 18th annual fair opens on Wednesday, Aug. 23 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 27. Opening day’s many activities includes both the traditional farm tractor pull starting in the morning and a contest for slightly modified tractors at night. The 4-wheel-drive truck pull is part of the evening show.

Each of the four years the truck contest has been held, there’s been a different winner. The 2016 top finisher, Louis Sloboda, 24, of Buttzville in Warren County, hopes to be a repeat champion. But so do the winner in 2015, Marc Wirasnik, and the 2014 winner, Alec Roberts. Both live in Franklin Township, Hunterdon, and are friends and neighbors.

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The winner in the fair’s first truck contest in 2013 was Brandon Case of Kingwood. Since then he’s sold the truck, purchased a “fixer-upper” home and started an electrical contracting business, besides working for his dad’s electrical firm. So he while he enjoys watching, he has no time for pulling and all it entails.

It’s a lot of work to keep a tractor or truck ready to pull. It’s hooked to a weighted “sled” which through mechanics and hydraulics becomes progressively harder to move while being pulled down the clay track until the puller stalls or wheels spin. Wear-and-tear on the engine and equipment is tremendous. Sloboda, driving his 2008 Ford F-250 and pulling 320.46 feet at Hunterdon last year, said he’s “completely re-done it” since then. He’s quite at home with tools and equipment, working as a mechanic and operator for Tom Bartha Excavating in Belvidere.

He’s entering a pulling event, not a beauty contest, and his truck shows it. Most of the vehicle is white, but with a dark blue right front door and a black left front fender, it somewhat resembles a Holstein cow.

Roberts came in second in 2016, with his 2005 GMC 2500HD pulling the sled 315.34 feet. And third last year went to Tyler Golis of Delaware Township, who in his 2008 Ford F-350 pulled 312.64 feet. Sloboda said that besides Hunterdon, his pulling schedule this year included the Warren County Farmer’s Fair, the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, the Plainfield Fair and some others. Last year he also took firsts in the Sussex and the Kempton (Pa.) fairs along with seconds in Lorah’s Truck and Tractor Pulls, West End Fair and Plainfield Fair, all in Pennsylvania.

Scott Bond and John Nance are co-chairmen of Hunterdon’s Tractor Pull Committee. The truck event is limited to 25 entries, so the tractor classes get done at a reasonable hour. They cut the number of smaller tractor categories last year to speed things along. “Nobody (in the audience) wants to see somebody put-putting down the track,” Bond said. “They want to see it (the pull) done in 10 seconds.” That’s for the bigger, heavier machines.

There’s a $5 grandstand admission charge for the evening tractor pull. Every other fair show, performance and contest is free. There is a $10 per vehicle parking charge but no per-person admission. The fair is held at South County Park on Route 179 between Ringoes and Lambertville. For more information, including rules for all contests open for the public to enter, go to hunterdoncountyfair.com.