Negotiations between the LeClaire and Port Byron Tug Fest Committees have stalled, according to a Tuesday news release.

The LeClaire, Iowa, Tug Fest Board and Committee announced Tuesday that negotiations to update the only Tug-Of-War competition to span the Mississippi River have reached an impasse, and the Iowa side is planning a land-based event.

Tugfest in the Quad Cities

According to a news release from a Tug Fest spokesperson, both sides of the festival have noticed a marked drop in attendance over the last several years. “Iowa’s take on this is that the vastly different currents on each side of the Mississippi River make it impossible to have a fair and even competition. Illinois disagrees, saying that the current does not matter and does not affect the outcome of the pulls in any way,” the release says.

“Of course we all want to win … that’s the nature of this beast but most importantly we want this
event to keep going for the next 36 plus years. We want to pass this over to our grandchildren and watch them have as much fun planning and preparing for this as we have. If we continue on as we have been, I fear that Tug Fest, as we know it, will die,” said Kari Long, president of the LeClaire, Iowa, Tug Fest Board. “This event is bigger than us … it’s bigger than just our boards and committees. We need to reignite the excitement in this event and make it better for both cities. This festival cannot continue as a one sided competition or we will all end up losing in the long run.”

Initially, the news release says, the Iowa team asked to change sides for all 11 pulls, and was met with “No” from Illinois. “After listening to our pullers, Tug Masters, team sponsors and our loyal fans, we have reached out to team Illinois and requested that Tug Fest be treated like every other sport where no team has the home field advantage at all times. We stand behind our decision and we are ready to move forward with our Plan B if negotiations fall through,” said Matt Thoene, vice president of the Iowa Board.

As of Tuesday, neither side has presented a plan that was acceptable to the opposition, according to the release. With the breakdown in discussions, Team Iowa has decided to proceed with planning a tug-of-war competition on land.

“Of course we will come back to the table to chat with Team Illinois if they are willing to talk about legitimate changes. We need changes that will benefit the festival as a whole,” Long says in the release. “Until then, we have to move forward with our planning schedule. We truly hoped that we could find some sort of compromise that would be acceptable for both sides but unfortunately, to this point, it has not happened.”

Tug Fest has been set for Aug. 10-12, 2023. More information about Tug Fest is available here.