by Rolf Lockwood and Jim Park
The big news from the first weekend of the 2001 show season had less to do with chrome than with the weather. It was a great weekend to be out and about - if you're a duck. In both Manitoba and Ontario, dull gray skies and cool temperatures dominated on June 1 and 2. Still, the festivities at the weekend's three truck shows went on.
Folks in Winnipeg were actually heard discussing tornado warning signs, but the sun finally broke through on Sunday, bringing smiles to faces like those of Andy and Irene Zary, pictured at right. Their smiles were even bigger an hour later when they'd walked off with a ton of trophies at the second annual Performance with Pride show-and-shine. Andy's 1959 Mack won the People's Choice and Participant's Choice awards, among others.
The mood was good despite the weather when the show got underway at Winnipeg's Red River Exhibition Park. Held in tandem with the Canadian Truck Show, it attracted lots of visitors.
There were 47 entrants in the competition, including Brian Swartz from Pennsylvania and Ben Vanderzwaag from southern Ontario (both of whom won a longest-haul trophy). Show organizers Clarence Falk, Brenda Nieuwkerk, and Elmer Hanson made them all welcome and worked hard to make the show a success. Their next stop is the Saskatoon Performance with Pride show on August 25-26.
In fact, Saskatoon contestants did mighty well in Winnipeg. As well as retired small-fleet owner Andy Zary, there was independent reefer man Mike MacDonald, who also carted off some trophies. His gorgeous yellow and purple Peterbilt is featured in this year's Shell Super Rigs Calendar.
The other big winner was Mark Brandt of Mark Brandt Trucking, whose five beautiful combination rigs took home a pile of prizes, including all of them in one graphics category.
It all finished with a glorious parade of shiny trucks rolling across Portage Ave. to downtown Winnipeg early Saturday evening.
And at Truckfest - The 10th edition of what's become the unofficial beginning of summer was held at the Paris Fairgrounds near Brantford, Ont., on that same rainy weekend. The lousy weather didn't slow the racers or discourage the judges.
It was a smaller showing than usual, with 135 trucks decked out in rain-doppled chrome lining the field. Fortunately, the rain didn't begin until Saturday afternoon, giving the judges a chance to inspect the hardware - without having to crawl around on wet grass!
The truck pulls always generate excitement at Truckfest. Despite the rain-soaked track and a B-train with bad landing gear, the races otherwise went off without a hitch. The wet track slowed the boys down a little, and soaked a spectator or two as the rigs rumbled by, but nobody complained. Because even a wet day at a summer truck show beats the heck out of most anything else.
And in Palmerston - June 2nd still, and one of us is at the Canadian Hand Car Championship/Truck Show in Palmerston, Ont., an hour's drive northwest of Kitchener. With a healthy crowd of local spectators and participants on hand, the rain held off until Sunday.
The Palmerston show isn't really a competition at all, just an excuse to get out with the family and meet a few other folks from the area who also truck. In all, 68 participants brought their trucks out, shined them up and stood back admiring their handiwork. All the entrants received a 'goody bag' containing some useful stuff donated by local suppliers, valued at roughly the same price as the entry fee.
Good on Don Harrow and the rest of his organizing committee for making this event a family day, without the pressure of prizes to be won. We saw lots of smiles up there and heard very few of the usual gripes about truck shows.
Palmerston stages a truck pull too, but with a twist. They tie five sturdy bodies to Harrow's 18,300-lb 1999 International and then see how long it takes them to drag the thing 100 ft down the track. The winners were a young crew featuring Lee McMullen, Mike Spittal, Dennis Gleason, Darcy Trinier, Adam Siefert, posting a time of 30.8 seconds. Not bad!
Then Brigden - The Brigden Truck Show and Tractor Pull held at the Brigden Fairgrounds, near Sarnia, Ont., added a show-and-shine competition to the agenda three years ago. And with more than 90 trucks registered for the event, held June 8-10, you'd have to call that a good move. The sunny and warm weekend featured a barn dance and a huge roast beef dinner on Saturday night.
The judges did their thing on Saturday, and the 40 or so winners paraded around the track on Sunday morning. It was a sight to see! Local hero Mike Duffy, a show-and-shine favorite right across the continent, took a couple of firsts, and the People's Choice prize went to Paul Switzer of Thamesville, Ont., for his 1997 Pete and reefer combination. Duffy's spectacular International is also in this year's Shell Big Rigs Calendar, by the way.
Jim Provost, owner of Jim Provost Trucking in Chatham, called the weekend a success. "We placed in the Best Fleet and Best Company Truck category, which is great, but most of all the guys who came up here with their families all had a great time," he told us. "This is really a great way show off a little."
We couldn't agree more.