Trucking history on display in the heart of Kansas

| Thursday, May 22, 2008

Something strange showed up this week at the Kansas State Fairgrounds.

Gone are the Ferris wheels, the Tilt-O-Whirls, and the questionable carnival games where – for some reason – no one can ever win the really big stuffed animal.

In their place: a 1952 White Motors WC-28, a 1932 Pierce-Arrow and a Mack R-series.

The fairgrounds is the site this weekend for the annual convention and antique truck show of the American Truck Historical Society. As many as 700 rare, antique trucks are expected to show up for the event, ranging from pickups to Autocars to Kenworths and Petes.

The show runs through Saturday, May 24. For more information about the show, go to www.aths.org.

The group’s Wheat State Chapter is hosting the event, and the fairgrounds is proving the perfect place for the show, with large parking lots, buildings designed for vendors, and large exhibition halls that can easily accommodate some of the trucks on display.

“This is one of the best facilities we’ve had in a long time,” said Bill Johnson, executive director of the ATHS. “The staff at the Kansas State Fairgrounds has done anything we’ve asked. It’s been very easy to make our arrangements.

“Other facilities we’ve worked at … our show’s always come off well, but sometimes, there’s a little more negotiation that has to go on to get things done. But everyone has been very accommodating. The city of Hutchinson has welcomed us to town, and we’re very happy to be here.”

Many smaller trucks – including some of the earliest examples of pickups and delivery trucks – can be found in the Meadowlark Building, a place normally reserved for businesses selling Ginzu knives, politicians hawking to voters, and handwriting analysis booths.

But the big antique trucks make up the bulk of the vehicles found throughout the fairgrounds. Running a close second place are the innumerable golf carts used by those in attendance to run about the grounds, enabling them to see as many trucks as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Attendees are offered several tours, including trips to the Kansas Cosmosphere, a museum of the space program located in Hutchinson; the Kansas Underground Salt Museum, which offers tours of a mine 650 feet below ground, also in Hutchinson; and the Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette, KS.

The Fairground’s Sunflower Buildings along Hutchinson’s Main Street have a number of vendors selling hats, photos of trucks, memorabilia, die-cast models and other goods.

The society has also scheduled an awards banquet, antique truck auction and buffet dinner for Saturday. The show ends with the Flint Hills Poker Run, in which truckers will travel to sites across the central part of Kansas, picking up a card at each site and competing for the best hand.

To reach the fairgrounds from Wichita, take Kansas Highway 96 west to Hutchinson. Take a right turn onto north Kansas Highway 61/U.S. 50. Continue north on Kansas Route 61 to 17th Avenue, and turn left. Turn right at Plum; the fairgrounds are a short distance up the street on the left-hand side.

One turn on the city’s streets presents a small challenge for larger trucks – the turn at 17th and Plum. Johnson said the city of Hutchinson has closed the right-hand turn lane, so trucks can make a wider turn without cars jumping into the turn lane on their right side.

Special to Land Line Magazine
– From Mark H. Reddig, host, “Land Line Now”
mark_reddig@landlinemag.com

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