But the drivers at Sunday's first White Lake Garden Tractor Pull were deadly serious.
"We like to have fun," said participant Thomas Faircloth, "but everybody likes to win, too."
Drivers compete to see who can pull a large "sled" to the finish line. A chain is attached to an axle on the sled, and raises a weighted box as the sled moves forward, making the pull more difficult with every rotation to the wheels.
The drag system is similar to that used in pulls for large tractors, but reduced in size.
The hobby got its start in the Midwest about five years ago, and recently began catching on in the Bladen County area.
The lawn tractors have their mowing decks removed, but for the most part, would be just as much at home mowing a lawn on Saturday as pulling for prizes on Sunday.
Most local pullers are members of the one group in the county, the Center Road Garden Tractor Club.
Jackie Allen of the Tar Heel area watched as his son Cody backed their Cub Cadet off its trailer.
"I farm, and don't have a lot of free time," Allen said, "but some friends talked us into this, and it's something we can do together."
"It's a lot of fun," Cody, age 10, said.
"He's our driver," Allen said. "I mostly do his for him."
The Allens were only two of several families who participate in garden tractor pulling. Among the two dozen or so participants in Sunday's pulling contest, more than half were father and son teams.
Some of Sunday's participants were solo acts.
Faircloth, who lives near White Oak, pulled three tractors into the staging area beside the White Lake tractor pull field. He moved each off the trailer with the ease of someone well-practiced in the maneuver.
In addition to a fairly late-model tractor, Faircloth also pulled a Massey Ferguson from the 1960s, and a vintage 1950's-era Bolens. Unlike modern garden tractors, the faded blue Bolens looks like a scaled down copy of the farm tractors of its time.
"Just got this one," he said, making an adjustment on the Bolens. "Not sure yet what it'll do."
Faircloth said he planned to pull with each machine in the contest Sunday.
"Thomas may have some old ones," another driver said, "but he's the one to beat."
Some of the tractor pullers take their hobby as seriously as those with half-million-dollar customized farm tractors.
A Pink Hill group had three tractors carried in a specialized trailer whose paint matched their late model truck. The trailer was fully equipped with an air compressor and tools, as well as folding chairs for the members of their team.
Several of the pullers even had sponsors from area farming operations. The sled carried the placard of a tractor dealer in Evergreen.
Some of the tractors looked as though they'd never seen a coat of paint after leaving the factory 10, 20 or even 40 years ago.
Gaddy Pate joked with other drivers, and waved to the hundred or so spectators attending the race.
"Ain't no one out here got an older Cub Cadet than I do," he said, patting his smooth gray 1961 Cub tractor. "This here's almost an antique."
While tractors must be stock to participate in Sunday's competition, many had special tires and other modifications.
An early 1970's Massey Ferguson featured a small digital instrument panel. A Wheel Horse had chrome-plated muffler fittings and customized wheels.
To prevent the front end of the tractor from popping up during rapid acceleration, and to even the playing field between drivers, most of the tractors had spare weights attached to the front and sometimes to the rear of the tractors.
Some of the tractors had professional-looking weight racks holding the same weights used by farm tractors. Others used simple steel rods welded or bolted in place and stacked with weights.
One crew simply tied barbells to the rear, sides and front of their tractor with rope and tie-down cables.
Renee Pait took participants' entry fees as they lined up for weigh in.
Her husband Scott was one of the founders of the Center Road group, and she said that while people are serious about pulling, most are in it for fun.
"It's something different," she said, "but everybody has a good time."