Tennessee show draws top show truck competitors

By Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line contributing field editor | 7/29/2013

The music of air horns and rumble strips played an accompaniment to the bands and conversations as Fitzgerald’s Glider Kits held a Customer Appreciation event June 28-29 and offered a new venue for a smokin’ hot Pride & Polish Truck Beauty Championship event.

Fitzgerald’s enclosed 70-acre facility sits alongside I40 in Crossville, Tenn. The road between Nashville and Knoxville and the dazzling display of wow-me-now trucks had drivers practically running off the road to show appreciation.

Drawing some of the top working and non-working show trucks in the country is no easy task, but some of the best and brightest marked their calendars and arranged their schedules to participate.

This year’s as-yet-unbeaten joint venture between Todd Roccapriore and Jerad Wittwer, the black and blue 2001 Peterbilt 379 was winner of the Greatest Effort Award, along with Best of Show Limited Mileage Bobtail. They call it “Family Buziness.”

The closer you look, the better it gets, time after time and always evolving from one show to the next. Grab a protractor (remember those from grade school) and check the angle of the curved panel highlighting the deck plate. Same as the angle of the curve on the visor. Same as the angle of the breather tube. Seriously.

And in case you thought they just put the truck in shrink-wrap and dropped it from a cloud, Roccapriore flew from his home base in Connecticut to Las Vegas, drove to St. George, Utah, to pick up the truck and then drove to Tennessee where he cleaned and polished until rags down. At the show, he talked about how much he loves being able to do this.

“None of it would be possible without my wife, Beth,” he explains. “She works hard every day and manages our finances so I can build these trucks. And when she's not here, I really miss her.”

It really is all about family. Generations of truck driving and hard-earned business sense rest on the shoulders of the Dawes family. Patriarch Morry Dawes, OOIDA life member from Waterford, Wis., brought his 2001 red and white Kenworth W900L and 2005 Great Dane reefer along. Shiny and bright, he was the Best of Show Wash ‘N’ Combo winner.

“But I really came to help my son, Joel, with his truck,” he says. Joel, an OOIDA life member from Waterford, Wis., brought his son, A.J., to help with the cleaning and polishing and enjoy the camaraderie that’s an integral part of the show truck community.

“You park next to a guy you don't even know for three days and before you know it, you're like a big family,” says Joel. “It’s about so much more than the trophies. New ideas, new thoughts, new personalities. The social gathering is great.”

They must have done more than a few things right with their 1988 Peterbilt 375, because in addition to an armload of trophies, Joel qualified to come to Dallas for the Pride & Polish National Championship Finale, which will be held Aug. 22-24.

Best of Show Working Bobtail was initially awarded to Jonathan Eilen’s 2007 Pete 379. However, it was just announced that a post-show audit disqualified the truck, resulting in the Best of Show Working Bobtail going to Joel Dawes.

Families come in all shapes and sizes and John Cudd is part of a military tradition that spans centuries of service, offering protection and sacrifice, duty and honor. His truck, a 1986 olive drab muralled Peterbilt 359, offers a glimpse into the world of a veteran of the Vietnam era.

John and his truck helped the Fitzgerald family raise more than $4,000 to support the Wounded Warrior Project. The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors of the United States armed forces with a vision to “foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history.”

John, an OOIDA life member from Sterling, Colo., was awarded the People’s Choice Award, trophies and an opportunity to compete at GATS in the 2013 Pride & Polish Championship Finale.

At night, fireworks streaked the sky to accent the glowing array of LEDs, incandescent lights and neon. And everywhere the reflection off chrome and stainless bounced and boogying to the beat of monster stereos. The Davis Brothers of Owensboro, Ind., brought their excellent trucks to tie for First Place Lights Combo with fierce competitor Shawn Gibson of Broken Bow, OK. They also tied with each other for Second Place Lights Bobtail.

With the help of his son Luke, OOIDA Member Bill Rethwisch, Jr of Tomah, Wis., won Best of Show Working Combo. Bill made an impression on judges and spectators alike with his creamsicle orange and white 2012 Peterbilt 389 and painted-to-match 2008 Polar tanker.

One of the biggest honors a truck show competitor can win is the admiration and respect of his peers. At this show, in addition to earning Best of Show Limited Mileage Combo recognition for his freshly built 2013 orange and purple Peterbilt 389 pulling a 2008 Mac Curtainside trailer, OOIDA Member Vinnie Diorio, Richfield, Wisc., was given the Truckers Choice Award. With a truck called Trend Settin,’ his motto is “Often imitated, never duplicated.”

The Fitzgerald family pulled out all the stops with a display of hospitality second to none for their customers, family and friends both new and old. Plans are already in the works to make this family reunion an annual tradition.

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