Kids let loose at the Mississippi Valley Fair – Quad-City Times

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Kids let loose at the Mississippi Valley Fair




To prepare for the Mississippi Valley Fair kiddie tractor pull, Maddie Hartman fashioned her own weights by putting toys in the lid of her sandbox and hooking it to her bike. This was the first pull the 5-year-old would participate in, and she wanted to be ready. 

"She's been practicing all week," her aunt, Jackie Hartman, said. 

The training paid off. Maddie was one of the top two pullers in the lightweight division, after going through multiple tied rounds. Her face scrunched up in effort as she pedaled as hard as she could, with crowds of kids and adults cheering her on.

Jackie Hartman said Maddie might not have been big enough to participate in the tractor pull last year, but they'd never know for sure since the fair was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the fair is open again, and the Hartmans, along with many other kids and their families, are excited to be back.

Thursday was Senior and Kids Day, when seniors received discounted admission prices and children under 12 visited for free until 5 p.m. The fair runs until Sunday, Aug. 8. 

Families took advantage of the day, filling up animal buildings and the midway. Rides were packed with kids and teens, many enjoying the last of the summer before school begins. 

The Mississippi Valley Fair returns this week to Davenport. Here are five things to know before heading out.

Maddie Hartman and other children pulled weights behind little tractors Thursday afternoon, hoping to pedal the farthest before time ran out and the tractor locked. Each kid who participated received goodies and ride tickets.

Five-year-old Kade Clauss didn't make it the farthest in the tractor pull, but it wasn't the event he was looking forward to the most. That would be mutton busting — riding on the back of a sheep and trying to stay on for as long as possible. He'd done some preparing as well, researching the sport. 

"I've watched YouTube videos [of mutton busting]," Clauss said. "This is my first time." 

When the announcement came for participants to come down to the pens where the sheep were held, a flood of children left a good portion of the bleachers empty. Parents, grandparents and siblings too old or young to ride watched eagerly as the kids lined up. 

Griffin Wilson was the first to ride, desperately holding on for 3.75 seconds before hitting the floor of the barn, made soft with layers of wood shavings. The 7-year-old and his mother, Kayla Wilson, were just walking by when they noticed signups for mutton busting, and he decided to go for it. 

Kayla Wilson was happy that they got the opportunity to come out for the kids day after being cooped up for so long. 

"It's nice that we actually get to do stuff," she said. 

Some kids barely made it a second before being flung off the sheep's back, while others held on until they were about to hit a wall. Then they all came back onto the barn floor for Making Money the Hard Way, a rodeo game where they had to pluck a piece of paper off one sheep's back. 

Shrieks and laughs filled the barn as a crowd of kids sprinted after the panicked sheep. Those few who got the paper received a prize.

Outside the barn, kids were meeting Santa Claus and getting gifts of their own. 

Jeff Stuhr drove an open-top Gator in a Santa costume, handing out glow sticks and other toys to children. On the side of the vehicle were the words "Tow Trucks for Tots."

The organization Tow Trucks for Tots is made up of towing companies from as far as Iowa City, said Stuhr, who all raise money for Toys for Tots. Last year they raised $15,000. 

At the fair, Stuhr donned his costume to hand out leftover toys from a fundraiser. With all the kids present that afternoon, preoccupied with mutton busting or not, he was sure to run out soon. 

"I'm just trying to give the kids a good time," he said. 

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