Pulling it together: LeClaire Tug Fest board issues statement on 36th annual Tug Fest dispute

Tensions continue to flare as both LeClaire and Port Byron dispute 2023 Tug Fest concerns
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:32 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 21, 2023 at 9:12 AM CST
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LECLAIRE, Iowa, and PORT BYRON, ILL. (KWQC) - The annual Tug Fest is a staple event in both LeClaire and Port Byron every August. But this year, it could look different.

On Monday LeClaire Tug Fest officials issued a statement saying:

“As of [Monday], the negotiation table is still open for discussion about serious changes to our beloved river pull. We have set a deadline of March 15 for these talks and we remain hopeful that our two teams can come to an acceptable agreement in that time. Rest assured that no matter what, the LeClaire, Iowa Tug Fest 2023 will be open for business,” LeClaire Tug Fest Board President Kari Long said.

In October 2022, the LeClaire Tug Fest team gave the Port Byron team an ultimatum in an effort to even the playing field of the annual Tug of War contest that stretches across the Mississippi River.

According to the Public Relations Director for LeClaire Tug Fest, Brandon Smith, the LeClaire team proposed the idea of swapping sides of the river due to the current of the river always working against those on the Iowa side.

“In the last decade, we’ve never won in Iowa,” Smith said. “So that’s the first thing right there. There’s something needs to change there, we need to figure that out. And our last negotiation with them was, let’s just go ahead and have all 11 teams switch sides, they bring theirs over here, we’ll bring ours over there.”

According to the president of the Port Byron Tug Fest, Tammy Knapp, they wanted nothing to do with that proposal.

“That’s not a good thing for each side of the river to do. People from Illinois want to watch Illinois pullers,” Knapp said. “[They] don’t want to watch Iowa pullers. There’s events in the whole weekend, especially that day that the tuggers partake in besides the actual pull, you can’t do that there in Iowa. They think it’s the current. But when I asked them, Do you have a proof for any kind of studies or anything? They say no, they don’t need to, they just know.”

Both sides are prepared to do the event on their own side of the river if it comes to that, but coming to an agreement is something both sides are pulling for.

“That’d be awesome, Smith said. “So we can start playing and keep it on the river for this year.”

Both LeClaire and Port Byron released statements regarding the issue.

This is a developing story. TV6 will provide updates on-air and online.