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The Big Shows Shine

by Jim Park

Just about anyone with a serious affinity for big trucks has had a bumper crop of fun this year. The two big shows of the eastern Canadian circuit - the Fergus Truck Show and Rodeo du Camion at Notre Dame du Nord - unfolded much as expected, with all the glitter you can cram onto 40 acres and more black smoke than is probably good for you.

Fergus offered both rain and heat, while the Rodeo was all heat and then some. Sales of bottled water - and other adult beverages - soared, but a great time was had by all. Here's what happened, as best we can remember, starting with Fergus, a small town that sits an hour-and-a-half northwest of Toronto.

More than 40,000 truck fans passed through the gates there in late July to witness the spectacular collection of some 460 show-and-shine competitors. "A few trucks less than we expected," was how show organizer Sherri Clarke described the roster, but by any measure, the quality was as high as ever.

A brief downpour dampened the grounds but not the spirits on Saturday, and by Sunday it was again full speed ahead. The truck pulls had to be postponed 'til day two due to the muddy track, but Sunday's bill more than made up the difference. Mercifully, the rain held off long enough for the judges to finish their rounds out in the show-and-shine arena.

This year's big winner had been to the show before, but hadn't placed as well in the past. Steve and Mary Toole, a company team working for Cambridge, Ont.-based Droh Inc., babied their 1998 Freightliner XL Classic to winning form with several stunning murals and mirror-polished bright work. The pair took home the People's Choice award for their trouble, as well as best in class, 1997-98, and best display area. Naturally, Droh owner Dave Hall was proud of his team and the work they've done on his truck.

"They certainly have my blessing," he told us. "How can I go wrong? They keep the truck looking just like that all year round."

There was some doubt late last year as to whether or not the Fergus truck show would run again. Co-founder and long-time organizer Clarke had come to the end of her rope as far as her time was concerned, and had actually resigned the position. Several outside parties had expressed interest in mounting the event, for a cut of the proceeds, but the town of Fergus decided to retain control of the event by offering Clarke a contract position to mount the show.

"I was astounded this year when I kept track of the time I put into this," she said. "I'm not the least bit sorry I did the job for free all these years, but it's sure nice not to have to split my time between earning a living and doing the show."

The fate of the Fergus Truck Show is secure for the foreseeable future, and Clarke assures us that next year's event will be even bigger and better than before.

Rodeo du Camion

This year's event brought registered guests from as far away as Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, not to mention Texas. Close to 60,000 took in the festivities that turn this sleepy little Quebec town, near New Liskeard, Ont., into party central for an entire weekend.

The show-and-shine competition garnered 122 participants, while the truck races attracted 90 wild and crazy drivers from as far away as Baie Comeau, PQ. All in all, the weekend's festivities generated about $5 million in revenue for the town, most of which is parceled out to a host of local charities. One can only guess at the total beer sales for the weekend. Prize money for the competitors totaled close to $60,000, with an additional $329,000 handed over in the elimination draw. To call Rodeo du Camion an economic boon to northwestern Quebec would be an understatement.

But prize money aside, as any of the participants of the weekend fun and frolic will tell you, the whole affair is just a huge blast.

Fergus 2001 Winners

Best of the Show/Public's Choice
- Steve and Mary Toole

Working Trucks
Best Owner-Operator - Dennis Bradbury
Conventional, No Sleeper - Brent Kurtz
Cabover - Ray Leslie
Pre-2001 Company - Steven Lowie, Heritage Trucking
2001 or Newer Company - Dennis Brubacher, Klass Act Transport
2001 or Newer - Ken McCartney
1999-2000 - Fred Remple
1997-1998 - Steve and Mary Toole
1993-1996 - Alexander Howes Jr.
1982-1992 - Paul Lance
Pre-1982 - Wade Singler

Combo Winners
Reefer - Gordon Currie
Van - Paul Lance
Livestock - Rob Atkinson
Feed - Ray Weber
Flat/Float - J. Hummer
Tanker - Doug Wilson
Trains - Gerry Jessup
Dump - Moe Loigner
Pre-2000 Dump - Rod Sugrue
2000 or Newer Dump - Scott McPherson
Straight Truck - TE Systems
Heavy Tow Truck - Mike Kaczur

Specialty Classes
Restored Non-Working - Mike Duffy
Paint - Mike Duffy
Mural - Steve and Mary Toole
Display Area - Steve and Mary Toole
Fleet (3 to 5 trucks) - Brian Kurtz Trucking
Fleet (6 or more) - Clickner Transport
Lights, Single - Mike Duffy
Lights, Fleet - Clickner Transport

There were several first timers at both the show and the races this year, two of them a husband-and-wife team of owner-operators from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. - Laurie and Jody Laroue of L and L Trucking. Their entry, 'One Last Ride', a 2000 Freightliner XL Classic (with a van trailer made by a manufacturer whom the couple insist not be named because of the shoddy service they've received from their dealer) features a stunning collection of murals by Sault Ste. Marie air-brush artist, Al Proulx.

This was the first time they'd shown the truck in Canada, after competing and placing in two recent shows in Michigan. Jody says one of the murals on the van depicts his mother and father on their last ride: his dad at the reigns of a stagecoach, with his mom riding below. Laroue lost his parents recently and decided to pay them a small tribute by immortalizing them on his trailer.

"I've wanted to come up to this show for the past few years, but never had the time," he says. "This year we made the time, and stayed on the road a week longer than usual to earn the money so we could afford to take a few days off. Now, I'm glad we did."

The Big Race

All weekend long, the two battled it out: 15 races in all, but everything came down to a single spin up the hill late Sunday afternoon. Terry Nychuck - or as the race announcer prefers to say, "Terrrrry Nyyyyychuck" - and Baby Mad Dog Vachon, a.k.a. Donald Vachon, tore up the track, cheek to jowl, every time they squared off. Each recorded one false start, but other than that, you couldn't have asked for a tighter competition.

Vachon, with his 445-hp 8V92 Detroit, against Nychuck and his 375-hp 3406A Cat. Each with their well-kept secrets (twin turbos for Vachon and $40 worth of duct tape in Nychuck's case) and tons of support from their pit crews, they kept the excitement at a fever pitch all weekend. In the end, Baby Mad Dog prevailed, reclaiming the title, "King of the Hill," for yet another year. Both vowed they'd be back again next year with bigger and better trucks.

"I don't know where I can go from here," Nychuck said. "I've squeezed everything I can out of this one. Maybe I'll have to rebuild my 475."

Rodeo du Camion 2001 Winners

Truck Pull Winners

Bobtail Category
Up to 424 hp - Michel Malette
425-460 hp - Francis Jenkins
461-500 hp - Claude Normand
500 hp and up - Donald Lavoie

Loaded Category
Up to 424 hp - Mario Banville
425-460 hp - Michel Normand
461-500 hp - Jacques Meilleur
500 hp and up - Anicel Vachon

The Winner's Circle Race
1st - Donald Vachon
2nd - Remi Normand
3rd - Francis Jenkins

Modified Class
1st - Donald Vachon
2nd - Terry Nychuck

Show & Shine Winners
Peoples Choice Award - Laurie and Jody Laroue
Highway Tractor - Raymond Villeneuve
Logger Tractor - Steve Desrosiers
Tractor-Trailer Van - Billy Baker
Tractor-Trailer Flatbed - Jimmy Larivière
Tractor-Trailer Dump - Gord Clickner
Tractor-Trailer Logger - Jean-Guy Boulanger
Specialty Truck - Gary Leitch
Dump Truck - Daniel Gauvin
Brand New Truck - Robert Sugrue
Tow Truck - Stéphane Campeau
Most Representative Fleet- Brian Kurtz Trucking, Sharon Thellend
Chrome - Billy Baker
Cleanest Paint & Lettering - Laurie & Jody Laroue
Best Maintained Truck - Jay Anderson
Nicest Interior - Raymond Villeneuve
Most Attractive Site - Sylvain Roy

Vachon was typically tight-lipped about his plans for 2002, suggesting he was still pretty happy with his current ride. "But you never know," he shrugged, sporting a huge grin. "I'll see what the guys at the shop have in mind."

Both say they're looking to knock about two seconds off this year's time, which will be quite an accomplishment, given the fact it's already nearly impossible to make the turn at the top of the hill if your speed's too high.

"He had me working as hard as I've ever had to up here," Nychuck says. "It was a heck of a weekend and, like always, it was a heck of a lot of fun."

Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the trucking industry of late, there was no sign of it up there, nor in Fergus. It's great to see participants giving it their all for the crowd and it's even nicer to see the industry giving something back to the communities it serves - both these shows hand all proceeds over to charity every year.

As always, highwaySTAR magazine is proud to be a major sponsor of these two events, and others, and we'll continue our support in the future. A hearty thanks from all of us to all participants.

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