Welcome To St. Ignace!

Sitting at the southern tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is the town of St. Ignace, MI. This quaint little city is known for two things: being at the northern end of the Mackinac Bridge and the annual Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show – and both are really cool! Attending this event for the very first time, I was excited to see how much this city rolls out the “Welcome” mat for everyone participating in or attending this awesome show, which was held on September 15-17, 2017.

The equally-awesome Mackinac Bridge, known as the Mighty Mac, is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and the longest in the western hemisphere. Suspension bridges are designed to move to accommodate wind, weight and temperature changes. All of the above apply to the Mighty Mac, and it is possible that the deck at center span can move as much as 35 feet, side to side, due to severe winds. Thankfully, we did not feel anything like that as we paraded our trucks over the five-mile bridge during the show.

In 1995, Ed Reavie with Nostalgia Productions began promoting a car show in St. Ignace, and he wanted to get a truck show started in honor of his friend Richard Crane. He contacted the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) and that got the wheels rolling. That September, the first show was held and nine trucks showed up, including three trucks from C & J Bark Haulers (who still attend the show), which is owned by Buddy Smith, one from Marv Van Kampen, one from Bob & BJ Montgomery, one from Blondeau and just a few more.

Many people said they could never make a show work there because it was too far north. St. Ignace is 300 miles north of Detroit, so it is a hike up there, but it’s worth every mile. And, surprisingly, it seemed the farther north we went, the smoother the roads got, and the scenery was stunning.

Each year the number of trucks has increased, and the town goes all-out to make the drivers feel welcome. They really want the truckers to tell their friends about how great the show is and how nice the people are, and that they should make a point to go. This was the first year I had ever got to go, and it was everything everyone had said over the years – and then some! Yes, they can add us (me and my boyfriend John) to the list of people telling others that they should go – and we will definitely be back again next year.

Once we arrived, we got our truck registered at the Black Bear Arena, and then met with my old friend Chuck Kemner, who gave us a good tip about where to park. Apparently, a ferry line had recently closed, so they allowed trucks to park in their empty lot downtown. Located right next to the lake, it was a perfect spot close to everything – we couldn’t have asked for a better place. Many drivers like to wait until Friday night at 5:00 p.m. when they close the street downtown, so they can park there, which is a great location, too.

We can’t thank Chuck enough for inviting us to take a sunset dinner cruise under the bridge. The food was delicious (the carrot cake was the best ever), the scenery was amazing, and the people were wonderful. John started talking with Ruth LaChapelle, who was sitting right in front of us, joking as he always does, and before we left the boat, we had a new friend. Ruth is a local photographer, and when I realized that the SD card was not in my camera, she told me that she would be happy to share some of her pictures with me. And share, she did – in a very big way. I would like to thank her for her generosity.

When Dollar General was out of SD cards, I went shop to shop hoping to find someone within walking distance that sold them. When I got to the Pavilion and started talking to Phil about my dilemma, he said, “Talk to my wife Elizabeth, I will be back in a minute.” I chatted with her for a few minutes, and when Phil came back, he had two cards. After figuring out which one I needed, he gave it to me. I was happy to pay for it, but he said no. That is how the people in St. Ignace are.

Unlike most other shows, that are really spread out, it was nice to have everything right there in downtown. I was able to get a wonderful pedicure from Susan at 7th Heaven Salon and Spa, and after eating at BC Pizza four times during our stay in St. Ignace, we felt like we had become regulars. They were happy to see us, and their pizza was awesome.

After the street was shut down and all the trucks were parked on Friday night, it was time for the light show. I’ve been to a lot of shows, but I don’t think there is a place anywhere that can hold a candle to this little town on Lake Michigan for putting on a friendly truck show. They have other shows and events all summer long, but the people I talked to in the local shops all said that the truck show is their favorite.

Saturday was sunny and beautiful, and there were so many people walking around, locals and tourists alike, that really enjoyed looking at the trucks and talking to their owners. Chris Budke was there with his red and white 1978 Kenworth K-100C cabover, parked next to our friends, Kevin Young and Todd Campbell. On Saturday, Chris dressed-up like the Snowman! His wife Ashely “Flatbed Red” Donaldson is an artist, and she would sit down or stand up and draw your truck. Yes, we had her draw ours, and she did a great job. She also drew four of the top winners, and if you want her to draw yours, she does commissions. While walking down the street on Saturday, I got to chat with George Wacker and his wife Lois. Standing next to his perfectly-restored red and black Standard Oil truck, George had on the old uniform, complete with hat.

The highlight of the show came on Saturday night when all the trucks, with their lights blazing, rolled across the Mighty Mac! Leaving St. Ignace and heading towards the bridge, the street was lined with people waving and motioning us to blow our horn all the way to the bridge. There are lights on the bridge for safety, but other than that, its total darkness – but all these trucks lit it up like Christmas. Once across the bridge, we got to drive through Mackinac City, where once again the streets were lined with people – it was truly overwhelming.

Sunday morning it was time for the awards, but I think that everyone who participated in this event was a winner! Those Michigan B trains, with a gazillion tires all shined up, the old trucks, new trucks, and everything in-between, were all part of something very special that happens in St. Ignace.

We went to St. Ignace to see for ourselves what we had both heard for years, and it did not disappoint. In fact, the event exceeded everything we’d heard! Next year, we will get there early so we can take a ferry to Mackinac Island, where there are no motorized vehicles (you walk, bike or take a horse-drawn carriage). Sounds like fun to me. This is one to put on your bucket list, for sure. Mark your calendar now for next year, September 14-16, 2018. We hope to see you there!

About Kim Grimm

Kim Grimm has had a license to drive a truck since April of 1978 and has driven millions and millions of miles ever since. Living in Wisconsin with her beloved cocker spaniels, Kim, who is a long-haul owner operator, has been a regular contributor to 10-4 Magazine since 2003.