Amish War Games – The Non-Resistant Go to War

I may have just committed “click-bait” in print but bear with me. The Amish are of course famously known for a “non-resistant” stance on taking up arms against another person. But there is one annual event in Lancaster County where you see a “fair amount” of good-natured aggression from the Plain People. 

The annual Tug-of-War competition at the New Holland Farmer’s Fair is an extremely popular event. While competitors come from all walks of life, the Amish are major participants in this fun contest. The town of New Holland has had a street fair each fall going back to at least the 1920’s. The fair sported a Tug-of-War competition starting in 1965.

At first, the Tug-of-War was specifically a battle between local fire companies. But, the Amish in Lancaster County have always been frequent volunteers with their local fire companies, so by way of their involvement with the local fire companies, they became participants in the Tug-of-War from the very beginning. 

Back then, gloves were optional, but teams had to wear their fire-fighting boots!  First prize took $50. Second prize got $25. Today, any organization can field a Tug-of-War team, though the local fire companies still dominate the entry list. Men and women can participate on the teams, but the total weight of the team combined has to be less than 2,100 pounds. 

The field consists of 16 teams. First place takes home $1,000 in addition to a team trophy. Plus each participant on the first-place team gets their own individual plaque. Second wins $750, third wins $500, and fourth wins $250. If a team wins first place three years in a row, they get to keep the 125 foot long 2 inch wide hemp rope as a further “trophy!”  Each competing team gets a $50 consolation prize just for being in the competition. The Tug-of-War currently has seven sponsoring banks and three commercial sponsors.

The Amish are generally known for avoiding prideful displays. But I think winning the tug of war at the New Holland fair is one moment that an Amish guy can relish without reservation. 

— Clinton Martin