Back in September 2020, while at the Busted Knuckle Truck Show in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, a friend of ours, Ricki Fenwick, mentioned a charity truck show in East Texas. Semi-truck drag races, to be specific. Truck shows, Texas, and a good cause? With those being three of my favorite things, we will be there! With the 2020 COVID scare closing shows all across the country, we knew if the show was going to happen, we had to make the trip.
Born and raised in Missouri, I thought I knew what to expect with the lay of the land in Texas. We’ve often visited Fort Worth, Gainesville, and Abilene, so I thought I knew all what Texas had to offer as we were heading to Lufkin, which is about 120 miles north of Houston. I had no idea there were huge pine trees in Texas! Hence, the show’s name – Draggin’ & Pullin’ In The Pines. Formerly known as the Trucker Showdown, this event was put on by East Texas Truck Center and Kelly Truck Parts on October 16-17 at Pine Valley Raceway in Lufkin, Texas.
Six years ago, Josh Burch and Ronnie Kelly hosted a fun customer appreciation day at their dealership in 2014. What they thought was only going to be approximately 10 trucks ended up being 50 trucks (they had to turn away many others) and raised $9,000! Two years later, the Trucker Showdown event had grown so much they decided to move it to Pine Valley Raceway and renamed it Draggin’ & Pullin’ In The Pines. Josh and Ronnie hand-built the pulling track themselves to add the pulling events on Friday and Saturday nights. That year they had 60 trucks and 20 cars. In 2018, Mad Gear Hot Rod Apparel stepped in as a new sponsor and, as Josh said, “They really made it rain,” bringing in with them a following of custom lowriders, motorcycles, ATVs, etc. The show has grown drastically ever since.
On Friday night, as the trucks began rolling in, there were truck and tractor pulls, along with some of the best brisket mac and cheese I’ve ever had. Saturday was a beautiful day, with lots of sun and temps in the mid-60s. There was plenty to do throughout the day with power wheel races and bounce houses for the kids, a washer tournament, car and semi-truck drags, tractor pulls, and vendors set up throughout the grounds. The evening featured a semi-truck light show down the drag strip. Eventually, Ronnie and Josh said they would like to get something going all day and maybe end the evening with live music.
This year had an amazing turnout that exceeded everyone’s wildest dreams. The lot completely filled up as good people came out to support two amazing causes, get out of the house, check out custom trucks, cars, and bikes, and let loose to enjoy the weekend. They had expected 5,000 in attendance, but that number doubled to more than 10,000 people! Over 160 semi-trucks alone showed up, not to mention all the lifted trucks, lowriders, motorcycles, pulling trucks, pulling tractors, and rat rods. We had no idea just how big this show was going to be this year – nor did the event founders themselves!
Both of the charities this event raises money for involve veterans. So, what drove Josh and Ronnie to choose Mission 22 and the Wyakin Foundation? Josh Burch is a Marine veteran and Ronnie Kelly had been doing the Mission 22 Push-up Challenge and, as the two said, “It just hit near to our hearts and we were like hey let’s bring them in here and help them out.” Ronnie hosted the Push-up Challenge on Saturday night to boost the money brought in.
Mission 22 is a veteran based program that was started in 2014 by a few green berets that were tired of losing their buddies to suicide. 22 is the number because on average we lose 22 veterans a day to suicide. They offer benefits 100% free of charge to the veterans to support them while they are dealing with PTSD and other traumatic brain injuries. Some of these resources include food and supplies, counseling, equine therapy, gym sponsorships, and service dogs.
The Wyakin Foundation’s mission is to help injured veterans be successful in all aspects of civilian life through education, development, and guidance. The foundation utilizes the strengths the veterans obtained in the military, instead of focusing on the setbacks or struggles, for continued success moving forward. Similar to Mission 22, Wyakin has a Pull-up Challenge for individuals or teams to compete which raises money through sponsor donations.
During the event, we heard a heart-wrenching speech from Barbie. Her son, Cody, was a military veteran that had taken his own life. She told us all the story of when she and her husband, Robert, were on the way to the base in San Antonio to give their son an honorable burial. Overwhelmed with grief, after the ceremony, she was planning to take her own life and join her son. When they got to the base, they spoke with the Chaplin and were told about Mission 22. When she heard about this cause, she said, “It was like a light bulb went off and now I had a purpose – and that’s what keeps me living and breathing today, is to help the veterans out there. My passion in life is to make sure each and every American understands how much every one of our veterans mean to us and to give them the love and support they need.”
This event did have several classes, trophies, and prize money to be earned, but it was really more about having a good time and raising money for a couple great causes. Special thanks to Josh and Ronnie for putting on an amazing show, everyone who attended, and our veterans for their service. At the end of the show, over $30,000 was raised for our veterans to be split between the two foundations. We love shows that are for a good cause, and this one was exactly that. We got to visit with many old friends and, again, took the time to meet new ones, too.
In the true good-hearted nature of the trucking community, we saw most all the winners of the show classes donate their checks back to support the causes. As most of you probably already know, the trucking community really does have a huge heart. If you eat it thank a farmer. If you got it thank a trucker. If you went to bed in peace thank a veteran. This is one stop we sure plan to keep on our must-do events list for next year. Watch the “Draggin’ & Pullin’ In The Pines Event” Facebook Group for up-to-date information for the 2021 show. We hope to see you all there!