I don’t know if you can put a price tag on the good public relations for trucking that took place in the community of Lexington, Va., during the 28th annual Shell SuperRigs truck beauty show last month (June 10-12).
Lexington, situated in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, is the home of Washington and Lee University (W&L) and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) and has a lot of historic architecture, quaint buildings and some brick streets.
It’s not the sort of small town that usually goes in for 18-wheelers rumbling through its narrow byways.
In fact the more ordinary thing is to hear of towns that outlaw commercial trucks on their streets, parking in their towns and even parking at the local Wal-Mart when truckers need to pick up some cold cuts, bread, or milk for the road.
But during SuperRigs a convoy of 18-wheelers staged a parade through Lexington and townsfolk got out their lawn chairs, grabbed seats on stone benches or stood on street corners to wave as the trucks went through and honked their horns in the space of about an hour.
They turned out for the annual SuperRigs “Lights at Night” competition and to see the fireworks that night, and they came to all three days of the show to admire and take pictures of the chrome beauties and their drivers who showed up to compete.
People from the town were quick to tell anyone who would listen (including the SuperRigs judges), how excited they were to be a part of the festivities and for Lexington to be picked as the site of SuperRigs this year.
You rarely hear of towns being glad to be part of the annual truck beauty show or even acknowledging the event, although one annual truck beauty show up north comes to mind and there are probably more.
But as trucking journalists we most often hear about the towns that hate all big trucks in general, don’t want them idling there, don’t want to hear their air horns, don’t want them to stop longer than to unload but want everything they bring.
But it turned out that many people who came to the show knew people who were in trucking or made their living from truckers and the transportation industry or were in trucking themselves.
For example, the Messerley family of Harrisonburg, Va., just down the road, had some nine trucks entered in the contest and the family’s hauling business and Mack trucks are known in and around Lexington. The town is in coal country and Neil Messerley won SuperRig’s Best Mural category for a painting on the outside back of his Mack’s cab depicting a steam locomotive carrying coal across a train trestle just outside of Lexington.
The SuperRigs event was held at the Lee Hi Travel Plaza near the junction of I-81 and U.S. 11 at exit 195. This wasn’t your average truck stop; it was surrounded by a grassy bowl with trees and near the back of the parking lot was a Good Sam campground with 40 sites, pets welcome, with clean restrooms and a bath house.
No fast food joints here. Berky’s Restaurant, the truck stop’s on-site facility, was a sit-down diner that served up a fresh salad bar daily, smothered steak, liver and onions (my favorite), fried fish with fries, beef stew, spaghetti, meatloaf and other home cooked fare.
Of course they were doing a booming business during SuperRigs, and this family owned business depends on trucking, and they know it. Other town business owners couldn’t be ignorant of the business SuperRigs brought them during those three days in June and how much business truckers bring them the rest of the year.
The thing is, all towns (and the people in them) should be aware of all the things and all the business truckers bring them. But like Barb Kampbell said in her column, Lighter Load (Page 55), it only takes one thoughtless trucker to louse things up for the rest of the industry.
I’m glad to see that to at least one town, it was an honor to host a big rig beauty show.
Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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