Like soldiers going into battle, the first men's LeClaire Tug Fest team marched one-by-one up a small hill Saturday owards the big, thick tug-of-war rope.

Donning light camouflage shirts, the men grasped the rope tightly and waited patiently for the clock timer to count down from 30 seconds.

Given the signal, the team pulled back hard and dug in its heels as it fought to maintain its bearings on the rope. At the other end of the rope was a similar team of tuggers across the Mississippi River in Port Byron, Ill.

Those Illinois tuggers now have bragging rights, winning 9-2 during the 28th annual Tug Fest.

LeClaire, which clinched the win last year, had hoped to score another victory.

“We’re bummed of course, but you know, this is going to make us stronger,” said Kari Long, president of the LeClaire event. “We liked the taste of victory last year, and this is going to motivate our tuggers to win next year.”

Each side featured 10 teams of 20 men and one women's team of 25.

The theme of this year's festivities in LeClaire was "Defending Our Eagle," a salute to the U.S. military.

“There’s quite a few of us on the committee that either are veterans or have children who are in the service,” said Long. “We wouldn’t have this today if it weren’t for the people who sacrifice day in and day out.”

Before the event, veterans and active-duty military members were recognized by officials. A Lucas Oil airplane — which was featured at this year's Quad-City Air Show — flew overhead while teams took their turn at the rope.

Each team tug master wore a green shirt with the names of the different military branches.

Chad Christy, 36, of LeClaire, donned a green tank top emblazoned with the word "Army," in honor of his best friend.

"There's a lot of good teams out here," Christy said before the event began.

Christy also is a member of the Muddy River Tug Club, a tug-of-war competition team that will compete at the world championship in Madison, Wis., later this month.

"Tug-of-war is not really big in the U.S., but it's big in other countries," he said.

Lisa Roberts, 35, of LeClaire, has been on the women's team the past two years.

"I like the competition," she said as the team waited to take a turn at the big rope. "It's fun all around. We've got a really great team this year."

Part of Saturday's event was delayed as officials on both sides worked to correct some tension issues in the ropes.

Both sides try to maintain an equal amount of pressure on the ropes so that no one is at an advantage, Long said.

Long said officials on both sides discussed a redo of some of the pulls, but time constraints made it impossible.

As the tug-of-war raged on, people on both sides of the river cheered on their respective teams. In LeClaire, the announcer encouraged the crowd to yell "Pull that rope!" as loudly as possible.

"If Illinois can't hear you, they're not intimidated yet," the announcer boomed into the mic.

When they weren't cheering on the tuggers, event goers on both sides of the river enjoyed carnival rides, food and drinks, and other activities.