The 31st Annual Tugfest is set to go on Saturday, and both sides of the river are talking up a big game. 

“It used to be a lot of partying and getting behind the rope and pulling the rope across the river,” said Port Byron Tugfest President Tammy Knapp. “Now it’s a lot of practice and dedication.”

Marty and Matt are two people who will testify to the practice. Both of them have a long history of tugging in the annual battle for the Mississippi, and they have been emcees for 10 years. 

“On our side, it is all about the tug. It’s serious. It’s about winning they’re very serious about it. They’ve been practicing since June 1st, two or three times a week.”

They say the practicing is awfully secret, but it’s essentially trying to imitate what happens at the tug. That’s trying to imitate pulling 2,400 ft. of rope across a raging river. 

Where the rope is pulled from is a different story. 

“There were engineers on both sides of the river and that’s where they determined where both pits are to be the most fair for both sides,” said Knapp. “We haven’t done anything really to ours except secure up the front so it doesn’t fall into the river.”

Even though Port Byron has stayed the same, LeClaire can’t say they have. In fact, they have switched up their pit multiple times, including right before the 2017 event. 

“The big pit that we’ve got now wasn’t working for us so we decided to change things up a little bit and take it back to old school style when we were flat on the ground,” said Tugfest Iowa President Kari Long. “Hopefully it will work.”

Both sides say they are impressed by the work their teams have put in. The overall score over the last 30 tugs is 19-11 in favor of Illinois. Iowa has a four year losing streak in the books right now that they’re looking to break. LeClaire is pretty confident, but so is Port Byron. 

“Look at the record. 19-11? I’m thinking Illinois,” said Knapp. 

“They can talk all they want to talk, the talk’s going to be on the rope on Saturday,” said Long. “We’ll see who comes out victorious.”