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End of Fergus Truck Show marks ‘a very sad day for the community’

End of the line - The show and shine competition was always a major part of the Fergus Truck Show, which was cancelled by organizers on Feb. 8. The show started in 1986 as a fundraiser for the Fergus sportsplex and eventually grew to become the largest of its kind in North America.  Advertiser file photo

End of Fergus Truck Show marks ‘a very sad day for the community’

by Chris Daponte and Mike Robinson

FERGUS - After 31 years as one of the most popular events in Wellington County, the Fergus Truck Show is no more.

On Feb. 8 show officials announced on Facebook the show, which in recent years was the largest of its kind on the continent, has been cancelled.

“It is with great regret that the Fergus Truck Show will cease operations effective immediately and will not be hosting any future events,” the Facebook post stated.

In a telephone interview with the Advertiser, show board member Kendra Klein said, “It certainly was not an easy decision for the board of directors to come to ...

“It is such a commitment and we were not able to provide the show the justice it deserved.”

Klein said the board cancelled the show for a number of reasons, including:

- rising costs for items such as rental of the sportsplex grounds, insurance, equipment rentals and security (about $20,000 annually for security alone);

- declining support from volunteers and sponsors;

- declining attendance from both trucks and show-goers (paid attendance in 2016 was down 9,000 from 2015); and

- a shrinking number of volunteer board members (down to five from 10).

Klein noted that over the six years she was involved with the show, “gate prices dropped from $28 to $20 ... and that is something we were very proud of ... to make the show more accessible to the community.”

She stressed the board “had exhausted all avenues” prior to cancelling the show, and noted, “We’ve had a lot of terrific, terrific people and great drivers.”

Centre Wellington Mayor Kelly Linton was among those saddened by the end of the Fergus show.

“For the last three decades, the Fergus Truck Show has provided great memories for residents and visitor alike,” said Linton.

“I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the many volunteers who have worked so hard to make this one of the highlights for our festival season. This event will be missed.”

Former truck show chief operating officer Wayne Billings wrote on Facebook that when he heard about the show’s cancellation, he “laid in bed wiping away tears” as he recalled “many memories of the show.”

He paid tribute to “the dream and passion of Sherry Clarke, pulling together a handful of people in the community to make her dream a reality.”

Clarke was visibly shaken by the show’s dissolution.

“It is very shocking and I am extremely sad,” she said. “It’s like (for) a part of me, the final closure has come.”

Clarke founded the show in 1986 as a one-time event to raise funds for the Fergus sportsplex hall addition and to introduce area residents to the trucking industry.

“It was started due to my love of the trucking industry and my love of the community,” said Clarke, who remained involved with the show for two decades. “It was a family show and it was just a lot of fun.”

The Fergus Truck Show grew to be North America’s largest truck show. Clarke said at its apex the show welcomed 50,000 visitors and boasted 280 exhibitors, over 600 show and shine entries and about 150 trucks in the pulling competitions.

Over 31 years, the event, always held on the fourth weekend in July, generated more than $80-million dollars in economic benefit for the community.

It was named several times as one of Ontario’s Top 100 Events and also won the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Impact award.

Clarke told the Advertiser the show’s demise marks “a very sad day for the community.”

She noted the show was a major community fundraising project for dozens of groups that worked in various capacities at the annual event, with over $600,000 in total donated to the groups over three decades.

The trucking industry itself also benefitted from the Fergus show, Clarke said, adding perhaps the show’s greatest legacy was it helped advance the public image of truckers, which wasn’t always the best.

“It let people know truckers were just regular, ordinary people, just like you and I,” she opined.

Clarke said while she’s sad the Fergus Truck Show is over, she is pleased with what it accomplished over three decades.

“There was a lot of laughs and a lot of fun memories,” she said. “Was it worth it? God yes.”

Klein said there are “so many little things” she will remember about the show, including an impromptu “slip and slide” autism awareness fundraiser in 2016 that raised $1,100 in three hours, thanks to the efforts of board members, campers and drivers.

She also fondly recalled the camaraderie that developed between truckers, even though the Fergus Truck Show was the only time some of them saw each other each year.

“But ... it’s like they only saw each other yesterday. That, I will remember - the community of the truck show,” said Klein.

Billings, who worked for the truck show for 24 years, said he cherishes everyone who became part of the “Fergus Truck Show family” and considers them all friends.

“Nobody should ever look at the Fergus Truck Show as a failure, but as a major event that ran its course and its memory will live on forever,” he stated in his emotional Facebook post.

 

February 17, 2017

 
 

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