Cross-river tug to shut down Mississippi River for 35th year

The communities of LeClaire and Port Byron are gearing up for the 35th annual Tug Fest Aug. 11-13 on the Mississippi Riverfront.

Since its founding and a relatively slow start in 1987, the event has grown to a major cross-river, one-of-a-kind event that fills the streets of both communities for three days of entertainment and fun.

This year’s theme is “Mardi Gras – Beads and Boots” and the Tug-for-a-Cause beneficiary is the 911 Memorial at the LeClaire Fire Department.

Tug Fest hosts live bands, carnival rides, food, a grand parade, 5K run and what organizers call the “GREATEST fireworks spectacular in the two-state area.”

What makes the event a one-of-a-kind, however, is the annual cross river Tug-of-War between two states and the only event anywhere that closes the Mississippi River traffic.

From noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 13, boat traffic will yield the right-of-way to a 2,700-foot-long, 680-pound rope that stretches across the river between the two towns. Eleven teams from each side of the river are pitted against each other trying to gain advantage by pulling in the most feet of rope within three minutes. The town with the most winning teams takes the coveted Alabaster Eagle trophy and bragging rights for that year.

Tug Fest has been going steady for 35 years with each year’s competition between Iowa and Illinois tuggers getting more intense than the last, organizers say. 

This year’s festival kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 11, with Family Night, and free admission. 

On Friday, Aug. 12, Tug Fest will feature a grand parade, fireworks spectacular and live music. 

Festivities on Saturday, Aug. 13, kick off with the children’s tug at 10:30 a.m. and the Big Tug faces off cross-river at 12:30 p.m. 

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit or

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