World Championship Rotary Tiller Races

in Emerson, AR, USA

World Championship Rotary Tiller Races

Words by Michael J. Rosen

"Tiller Pilots....Must Wear Shoes."

- World Championship Rotary Tiller Race rule book

According to the PurpleHull Pea Festival in Emerson, Arkansas (population 359), the Weyerhaeuser 200 World Championship Rotary Tiller Race is the "highlight of the tiller-racing season." Considering it's the only tiller race around, the "Tiller Thriller" is indeed a highlight. And if you're looking for peas - purple-hulled peas, in particular - you've come to the city that "pays homage to this wonderful tasty legume with its itinerant and historic past."

The event is not named for the number of laps, but for the length of the track: It's all of 200 feet. Since 1990, competitors have plowed into races of two sorts: Stock, where the tillers are driven just as they come from the factory; and modified, where racers can "run what you dare." There are eight divisions, none of which manage to churn the ground into a humus-rich crumble for successful planting:

overall stock: Any racer, age five to 55, can compete with an un-modified tiller of at least 3 horsepower.

youth stock young men: The stock rules apply here, but the competitors are all boys 17 and under. Despite their prowess with a tiller, none has yet to cultivate growth on their own chests.

youth stock powder puff: Another stock division, but for girls 17 and under, none of whom would trade a mirror and blush for the natural glow that a nice dusty run across a field brings.

super duper dirt slangers: Competitors are 18 and up, and they race modified tillers of at least 100 horsepower, equipped with a "kill switch" that connects the ignition of the engine to the rider's wrist. Their machine's steel tines must show "some resemblance of digging or slinging dirt." The world record in this 200-feet race: "Wild Thang" Wayne Waller, with a time of 6.12 seconds.

rip roaring tillers of the 90s: In this "true" tiller modified class, machines run through a tiller gearbox (transmission) and can reach speeds over 20 miles per hour. The world record here: Shane Waller flew across the 200 feet in 5.72 seconds, averaging 24 miles per hour.

ladies modified: Women may run a "dirt slanger" or "rip roaring" tiller, providing they have "proof of a recent mental examination."

flower bed tillers (little men): These are stock races using 2-horsepower tillers for boys 10 and under. All boys must have successfully demonstrated that they can take care of their radish-sprout-in-a-Dixie-cup school project in order to enter the competition.

flower bed tillers (little ladies): Same thing, but for girls who are willing to race without putting streamers on the tiller's handlebars or a basket in front so their favorite stuffed animal can race, too.

Ready to dig in? Visit the PurpleHull Pea Festival and World Championship Rotary Tiller Race.

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