I learned from Billy Joe Miles that he also was one of the first people to promote tractor pulls, which have grown into major productions.
“I was head of the Young Farm Bureau Club and we decided to do a tractor pull to raise some money, which was something that no one else had ever done. There was a local guy who was home from Louisville for vacation who told us that the new machinery show in Louisville was struggling to get people to spend more than one day. He called us up and asked if we could come over and do a tractor pull inside of Freedom Hall. Four of us went over and looked at the building but we were concerned about all of the smoke from the tractors, but they told us that they’d had 20,000 people in there when virtually everyone of them was smoking and it didn’t seem to cause any problems.”
“We still weren’t sure and really got cold feet when they wanted us to promote the whole thing, renting us the building for $20,000. My friend, Donny Biddle, asked me: What if it snows that day and nobody comes? I was only 26 and $20,000 was an awful lot of money back then. I built my first house ten years later for $22,000. We decided to let them have all of the revenue and we’d put the show on for 10% of the gate. It was the worst decision I ever made because that show is now grossing $2.5 million and the group that we set up to promote it still gets 10%.”
“The tractor pull started out going to 2 nights, then 3, and 4 and finally to 4 nights plus a Saturday afternoon show. It has gotten huge!”
From that success Billy Joe’s group expanded into trade shows and arena management. They grew the business to over 100 events per year with 3 TV shows and eventually sold it to Paramount Movies.
Billy Joe finished off with a funny story of having some Russian visitors in when he introduced the first monster truck, “None of these Russians could afford to have a car. Only one in the entire group of about 50 owned a car. They were over here and we took them to one of our shows. We drove 20 cars that looked awfully good, if you had never owned a car in your life, and lined them up. They went crazy when we drove the monster truck over the top of them.”
Billy Joe is one of those entrepreneurs that can help transform a town. He has not only had that kind of impact in his hometown of Owensboro but in all of NW KY.