Port Byron Tug Fest

Come join us for a weekend full of fun activities for all ages! Whether it’s live music, great food, or the one and only tug of war across the Mighty Mississippi, you won’t leave disappointed!

See our Schedule & Events for all we have to offer.


Video Courtesy of Small Town Titans


Dorrance Park and the Port Byron Methodist Church

  • FRI: 5:00 PM - 12:30 AM

  • SAT: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM


Gibson-Bode Funeral Home Upper Lot



  • Free gate admission

  • Carnival wristbands $20

Friday & Saturday

  • $4 per person, per day

  • Children under 12 are free


"It's a small town; it's a tight community; there's a lot of pride here.“

Josh Sallows  | Tugger


First Tug Fest 1987  Jess Casilles, Don Johnson, Gary Knapp, Boots Knapp, & Swede Carlson

First Tug Fest 1987
Jess Casilles, Don Johnson, Gary Knapp, Boots Knapp, & Swede Carlson


In 1987, Scott Verbeckmoes witnessed a similar, but smaller festival. He thought it would be a novel idea to have back in Port Byron and stretch the event across the Mississippi.

It was a hard sell to both the people of Illinois and Iowa, but Co-chairmans Charles “Boots” Knapp and Keith Speckman, Denise Bowers, Kathy Augsbuger, Patty Kemp, Connie Eckermann, Ciel Abbott, Fred & Lavern Walbusser, and Frank and Sandy James were the original committee members who sold the idea and pulled it off.

The original rope used up until its retirement in 2006 was purchased from Trevor’s True Value located Port Byron, Illinois in 4 separate coils of 600’ each.  Jerry Oppendike spliced the ropes together for the 2400’ needed to cross the river.  Port Byron State Bank lent the money for the rope.

Don Johnson and Harry Cort from Iowa Illinois Gas and Electric first put the rope on its reel and carried it across the Mississippi while Jarry Lancaster announced the inaugural event.

The first Queen contest winner was Heidi Drummond.

The Alabaster Eagle is a traveling trophy that was originally purchased by Betty and Boots Knapp from Kliems in Bettendorf, Iowa (Larry Tague made the beautiful showcase the following year).

This was how the first Tug Fest got started, or rather Hobo Days as it was originally titled. The continued success of this one of a kind event is only possible through the hard work of hundreds of the volunteers who have come and gone over the years. We’d like to give a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone that has ever participated in the The Great River Tug Fest.

Go Illinois!