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Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship marks 25 years
If you attend the Mid America Trucking Show (MATS) this year, don’t miss the 25th Anniversary Edition of the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship. It is the finest collection of show trucks anywhere in the country, with entrants ranging from highly chromed to strikingly painted to custom fabricated. The only thing that is certain is that whatever you’ve seen in truck beauty previously will be surpassed at this show. Each rig is a tribute to truckers’ ingenuity and imagination.
The show’s namesake
This competition bears the name of a man who helped build the trucking community in a significant way. Paul Young was the founder of MATS, which has become the largest and most important trucking show on the continent, with more than 1,000 exhibitors occupying more than 1,000,000 square feet of show floor. He brought a personal touch to his business, constantly seeking to improve the show experience for exhibitors and attendees alike.
I first met Paul Young in 1982. It was my first truck show, my first exposure selling to our wonderful industry as a supplier. As I was setting up my booth, an unassuming older gentlemen drove up on an industrial cart. He asked if there was anything I needed to help get the booth ready. When we were done, he came by and offered a few hints on how to improve traffic flow through our booth.
Several times during the show, he came by to see if there was anything more he could do to help us. Since he was driving a workers’ cart, I assumed he was a foreman. It wasn’t until the next year that I learned it was his show. During those rounds, talking to exhibitors and attendees, Paul gathered ideas and used them to improve the show each year.
Bring in the trucks
In 1989, MATS was approached for space in a parking lot to hold a truck beauty contest. The first show featured about 15 or 20 rigs, and over the years the number of entries and level of competition grew.
Paul Young passed away in 2000, and in 2001, the National Association of Show Trucks (NAST) and the Stars and Stripes organization proposed that MATS management rename the competition. That year, entries to the Paul K. Young Memorial Truck Beauty Championship had to be limited to 130 trucks. There wasn’t space for any more in the parking lot.
Today, the show still thrives. Entrants give up days off to prepare their trucks, and it’s not for the trophies or the meager prize money. As former Best of Show champion Suzanne Stempinski put it, “Friendships made on the parking lots among the competitors last long after the chrome has lost its luster. People are proud of what they do and are good at the driving and the business. More importantly, they are people you’d be proud to call friends.”