Spitballin’ about MATS

By Bob Martin
OOIDA Life Member
Lafayette, IN


Someone recently asked me about my favorite MATS memories.

There ain’t no way to answer that. As a spectator and truck beauty show contestant since the late ’70s, I’ve had a lot of good times there and met famous people like Richard Petty and Dave Sweetman.

In 1996, we showed our truck for the first time after being a spectator for nearly 20 years. This was a whole new ball game. After being parked on the show lot for about two hours, I was hooked. People were patting us on the back and saying how much they liked our truck. This was a day before the show even started, which can get in your head pretty quick.

Overall, though, it’s the people, the old friends you might only see once a year at Louisville, folks you worked with in the past.

Seems like everybody shows up sooner or later.

As for the new friends, the day before our first show in 1996, my wife, Geri, and I were trying to get our truck ready for judging the next day. It was a miserable day, raining, freezing cold, and this lady in an Eskimo suit with two cameras around her neck walked up to me. I was waxing ice at the time, and she asked, “Why are you doing this?” I gave her a dirty look and shrugged my shoulders. That was my first conversation with Bette Garber.

Another new friend from that first showing was Takashi Kato, a businessman from Japan. We’ve stayed in contact all through the years since, and Mr. Kato comes to MATS nearly every year. When he is in Japan, communication is no problem thanks to the Internet and e-mail. When he comes to MATS, it’s not so good. We probably get about 5 percent of what the other is saying; with his interpreter it jumps to 15 percent. We do thumbs up and bow a lot.

MATS is fun. If I could change anything, I’d ask for a little nicer weather and shut that airport down for the duration. It feels like the planes are landing on your head.

MATS is being ecstatic after shutting down for two weeks and polishing your working show truck to the nines, and being able to go home from Louisville without driving through a couple of blizzards and scattered mud showers.

MATS is going to a concert and noticing your soft drinks have whitecaps in them when they crank it up.

MATS is four truck shows in one: the new trucks from manufacturers and dealers; the truck beauty contest on one lot; NAST finals on another lot; and all the trucks in the parking lots all around the place. Lots of nice rides there.

MATS is having free tickets to a concert, giving them away, and going next door and shelling out 70 bucks for another concert.

MATS is sitting in a bag chair on the show lot in the evening having a cold one or two and swapping lies with old friends – and maybe some who are not old friends, but are furnishing the beer or the chairs.

MATS is a good place to grab some German-roasted cashews, find that chromium-plated fully illuminated shift knob, and load up on Tootsie Rolls and ball point pens.

Me, I’ll have a pork chop and a mango smoothie. LL