Sound the airhorns
It’s St. Ignace time

By Bill Hudgins
Special to Land Line


Marie and Brian Patrick's 2007 Pete is a rolling history class.

Phil Knowlan, Coldwater, MI, with his 1994 Peterbilt and Fontaine flatbed, earned a slot as alternate Truck-Lite Trophy qualifier.

OOIDA members Brian and Marie Patrick of Chelsea, MI, didn’t think their children knew enough about or appreciated American history. So they decided to make it more real by decorating the custom sleeper on their 2007 Peterbilt with murals depicting the Revolution, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

A friend encouraged them to enter the National Association of Show Trucks’ 12th Annual Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show in September in

St. Ignace, MI.

“We’ve never been in a truck show before,” Marie whispered as the judges announced they had won a tricornered hat full of first-place awards and also the trophy awarded by the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority.

The Patricks’ rolling history class commanded attention from the thousands of people who strolled among the 116 competing rigs; the Patricks were hoarse from telling people about their truck nonstop for nearly three days.

That’s saying something for this show, which annually draws some of the best show trucks in America, as well as a heavy showing from B-trains and long combination vehicles seen only in Michigan.

This year’s turnout was the second best since about 140 trucks came to the Upper Peninsula in the waning days of the ’90s boom time. Staged in the middle of town, the truck show is welcomed not only by locals, but also by thousands of tourists who fill local motels to capacity in order to see the event.

Above: Ron and Carol Commisaris, Sparta, MI, qualified to compete for the Truck-Lite Trophy by exhibiting this 2005 Pete with a Great Dane reefer for M.C. Kampen.

Below: After winning a $50,000 makeover by S&J Truck Sales of Fort Wayne, IN, at the Shell Rotella SuperRigs contest earlier this year, Bob and Geri Martin, Lafayette, IN, think their 1995 Peterbilt 379, formerly known as "Cowpoke" looks better than new.

Trucks line up along State Street, the town’s main waterfront roadway, which is closed from Friday night until late Sunday afternoon, and also at the adjacent community center. Vendors from local truck dealers, polish and accessory businesses set up shop next to hot dog and roasted nut concessions. People push baby carriages and walk dogs among the blindingly bright rigs.

This year, a cold front swept in with waves of showers on Thursday night and Friday, forcing entrants to repeatedly dry off newly polished surfaces. Even the Yoopers complained about the cold, as the wind whipped in across Lake Michigan. (Yoopers is a nickname for the folks who live up this way on the Upper Peninsula.)

However, Saturday and Sunday were dry and bright, if chilly, and the hard cold hours of work paid off.

The highlight of this show is always the Parade of Lights across the Mackinac Straits Bridge on Saturday night. With all lights aglow, airhorns blaring and thousands of onlookers agog on both ends of the bridge, this year’s parade trundled like a diesel-powered Christmas tree through Mackinac City and back to St. Ignace.

On Sunday, the 2005 Peterbilt with Great Dane reefer van driven by Ron and Carol Commissaris for M.C. Van Kampen of Wyoming, MI, was named as the show’s qualifier for the Truck-Lite Trophy showdown next March at the Mid-America Trucking Show. A 1994 Peterbilt and Fontaine flatbed combo owned by Phil Knowlan of Coldwater, MI, is the alternate qualifier in case they cannot attend.

For a complete list of winners, visit nastshowtrucks.org. LL

Bill Hudgins may be reached at billhudgins@earthlink.net.