2017 MATS preview: Who's your papa?

By Land Line staff | 2/24/2017

The camaraderie promises to be nonstop as usual at the Mid-America Trucking Show March 23-25. When truckers are not congregating at the Kentucky Expo Center, plenty of them hang out at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium parking lot. 

Exhibit Management Associates, producers of MATS, have a contract with the nearby University of Louisville for trucker guests to use the parking lot at the stadium at no cost. During MATS week, for hundreds of drivers, the place is base camp.

Because of the organization happening early in show week at the parking lot, Wednesday, March 22, is the best day for your arrival. All trucks must enter and exit through Gate D, as it is the only gate wide enough for Class 8 trucks.

There are a few hard rules. No vendors are allowed to actively sell anything on the lot, but plenty of incredible food and hot coffee are served up free by volunteers who set up “mess halls” and little cafes everywhere. Donations are appreciated. 

OOIDA Life Member Rob “Mouse” Fernald of Westbrook, Maine, is a Wal-Mart driver, TA/Petro Citizen and a guy who likes to cook. He enjoys setting up a café at Papa John’s each year with volunteers and friends. And if you ask him why, he’ll say “just ’cause we can.” Rob reports that the Cause We Can Café is cooking again this year from Thursday to Friday, serving up breakfast and supper. Fernald’s menu goes beyond scorched dogs on the grill. Last year, the crew held a surf and turf dinner to benefit the St. Christopher Fund. Steak and lobster were the entrees of the night.

This year, the cafe is hosting a fundraiser breakfast for the St. Christopher Fund on Thursday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The word is there will be scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, gravy, home fries, oatmeal, fruit and plenty of coffee.

Truckers United for Charities is another nonprofit trucker group that will be grilling for a cause. OOIDA’s Jon Osburn is president of the group. He says this year it’s just the basics – brats, soda, water – and as it is with all Papa John cuisine, donations are appreciated, not required. All proceeds from this group’s fundraising go to Camp Quality Kentuckiana, an organization that “lets kids with cancer be kids.”

No activities are scheduled at Papa John’s until the show at the Expo Center wraps up for the day, but the after-show hours offer entertainment and more. The Mid-America Trucking Show closes at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

Shuttle buses to and from the Kentucky Exposition Center are also provided for anyone parking at Papa John’s thanks to TravelCenters of America. They are once again official sponsors of the lot and will have a shower trailer on-site, plus truck service/repair.

New this year, Uber Freight will have a presence in the lot with a tent and are looking forwarding to meeting with drivers.

Show management expects all attendees to clean up after themselves. There will be security and parking attendants in the lot to ensure that vehicles are parked efficiently, that the correct entrance and exit is used, and that the shuttle bus can get in and out to deliver attendees to the show. Shuttle service starts one hour before the show and runs one hour after the show each day.

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