By Reed Black
There are really two truck shows in Louisville in March. One is the Mid-America Trucking Show, the official production at the Kentucky state fair grounds – where gleaming new trucks and endless booths of vendors are housed inside huge exhibition halls.
It’s flashy, fun and very commercial.
The other is “Papa John’s” – a parking lot at the nearby Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium sports complex where hundreds of truckers park their rigs each year and, for three days, convert an empty expanse of macadam into a town.
“The party in the parking lot” is the way OOIDA Members Penny and Gregory Copenhaver of Independence, MO, describe it. “You meet a lot of wonderful people,” Penny says.
The people get out their lawn chairs and barbecue grills, and everywhere there’s music drifting out from radios and CD players.
At night, there’s live music on a flatbed stage – either amateurs or heavy hitters like Leland Martin.
And, like most small towns in America, Papa John’s has a heart.
In 2007, an army of friends pulled together to help raise money for their terminally ill friend David “Rusty Nail” Broyles. They solicited donations from exhibitors, vendors and friends and in almost no time at all put together an auction that raised more than $18,000.
One year, the truckers raised more than $8,000 in just one night to help pay the medical expenses of cancer treatment for Chance Rodgers, the young grandson of trucker Jim Rodgers. Chance remains “cancer free” according to a Dec. 26, 2009, update on his blog.
Last year, the aroma of brats and hamburgers drew truckers to the tent where other truckers were selling tasty food to benefit the Special Olympics and the St. Christopher Fund, a fund that helps truckers who are down on their luck.
“This is what truckers are about,” says Gregory Copenhaver.
Did I mention the dogs?
Lots of truckers or significant others bring their dog. Life Member Sue Wiese, who heads up Operation Roger (in which truckers transport pets to new homes for free), has even held contests at Papa John’s.
Truckers see if their traveling companion can capture the prize for “Best Trick,” “Most Cute,” “Most Lazy,” “Most Ugly,” etc. Winners were determined by the volume of audience applause and/or laughter.
At the end of three days, they all pull out of the parking lot and everyone heads their separate ways.
The town of Papa John’s vanishes for a year – only to reappear the following spring.
It’s an annual event that Penny says is all about “talking, laughing, joking.”
Gregory has a one word definition of Papa John’s, “camaraderie.” LL