Downshift
Happy Rigtober

By Bill Hudgins, columnist

“What’s that?” you say? Well, it’s really October, but there are so many trucking-related events packed into five weekends that the month ought to be renamed.

There are all sorts of large and small shows, ranging from county fair truck and tractor pulls, toy truck shows, numerous antique truck and tractor events and convoy events to Route 66 rendezvous events, even touch-a-truck days.

Many of these raise much-needed money for local organizations. For instance, there’s Truckin’ for Kids Show and Drags at the Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, CA, on Oct. 6-7. It supports children’s charities. Down the road from me on Oct. 3 in Chattanooga, TN, there’s the Big Rigs for Little Kids, a golf classic that raises money for children’s charities. And on Oct. 12-13, the Big Rig Antique Truck Show in Cherokee, NC, will be raising money for cancer research.

There are so many truckfests in Rigtober, sorry, October, that I think they oughta have an official brand name. What I’m talking about is a nationwide – excuse the pun – semi-holiday celebrating trucks drivers and families.

That isn’t a far-fetched idea. In fact, the name “Trucktoberfest,” is already used by those folks who run food trucks in hip urban areas – straight trucks and sponsored by micro-breweries and other businesses.

Since Trucktoberfest is already spoken for, how about Rigtoberfest? “Rigtoberfests” would be great opportunities to show some trucking pride and educate “civilians” about the industry. And to have fun. I bet some truckers would dress up in lederhosen and knee socks, or those barmaid dresses popular in biergarten-themed taverns. And though I wouldn’t recommend playing “oompah” music on your train horns, I think there is a real niche for trucking polka songs, like “Roll Out the Combo” or “The Beer Tanker Polka.”

For me, the prototype would be the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show in St. Ignace, MI. Though it’s held in mid-September, the show has an October feel, as the trees in this Upper Peninsula town have already started turning by then, and temps can get downright brisk.

St. Ignace hugs the Lake Huron shoreline, and the town shuts down the main drag for three days for show truck parking. Even that’s not enough and the overflow fills several acres at the town’s civic center and hockey arena.

Thousands of spectators idle along the sidewalk, ogling the trucks. Many reminisce about their own time on the road or about Uncle Ned’s old butterfly hood rig, or get pointers on restoring an old Reo they found in a barn.

On Saturday evening, folks claim their spots along the Parade of Lights route and grill brats as darkness falls. Many go down to the toll plaza to watch. That’s my favorite spot. My wife and I sponsor the parade and can watch from on top of the booths. Let me tell you, when you have 100-plus rigs growling past, the earth moves.

Besides these shows, just about every small town has an Oktoberfest or some similar harvest event, and it’s amazing how many include trucks. Because if anything in today’s America says “Harvest,” it’s big rigs. And they say that 24/7/365 – not just in the fall.

Like St. Ignace, these events bring the trucks right to the heart of downtown. There’s usually a band set up on a flatbed trailer, and truckers ready to spend the day talking about what they do and what they’ve seen.

In my hometown, the October celebration includes nighttime tours of the old town cemetery, where role-players portray maybe a dozen or so past notables. It gets a little spooky as the mist creeps in – which makes me think one of those rigs on the square ought to be called “Phantom 309.” I am hoping they rent a fog machine and crank up the speakers, and … what’s that chill I feel?

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL