I’m not a pushover. And I’m certainly not a nostalgic softy. Too many years of journalism have me a little jaded and a little hardened – kind of like the truckers I work for.
At least that’s what I like to claim. It’s easier to put on a tough outer shell and act like I’m hard as nails – kind of like the truckers I work for.
Well, my bluff was called this past weekend, and I’d bet more than a hard-core trucker or two felt the same way.
I laughed and teared up more in a 36-hour period than I have in the past 36 months. All courtesy of the South Dakota leg of the World’s Largest Truck Convoy for Special Olympics.
The laughter started Friday night during the kick-off activities with hugs and entertainment from Jack Kapanka during dinner and a Texas Hold ’Em tournament.
The tears started promptly at 8:45 a.m. Saturday when Grand Marshal Mason Ivers, 11, son of Bo and Marie Ivers, sang the National Anthem – really well. His pure voice and obvious passion for the song shook me to my core.
And I wasn’t the only one. Blinking away tears, I looked around after he finished and saw the armory full of truckers doing the same thing.
Yeah, he got us off to a great start.
I don’t care how rough and gruff the truckers who participated in the Convoy wanted to think they were, I saw them all turn to mush.
The athletes and their unbridled love for big trucks and the men and women who drive them kept us all laughing and smiling throughout the day’s events.
Truckers like OOIDA member Marvin Wipf and 17-year-old athlete Jordan Tschetter were fast friends. Member Mike Currier kept the athletes in stitches with his signature clown glasses and antics.
Watching the interaction throughout the day with tender moments and outright tomfoolery made me start dreading that eventually the day would end.
Culminating the event was the awards ceremony.
I was one of the folks who had the task of judging the show truck competition. In presenting the trophies at the awards ceremony, there was one award in particular for which I was very curious to see the reaction of the winner – Athlete’s Choice. I had to play it slick as I was announcing the winner, because I didn’t want to give it away by looking at him.
But as soon as I announced the Athlete’s Choice award went to OOIDA member Jerry Seaman, I turned to look at him. Sure enough, the big tough trucker was all teared up. That award meant the world to him.
The organizers of the South Dakota Convoy have a slogan of sorts for their event:
“Come for the athletes. Stay for the fun. Return for the memories.”
I’ll be back.