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Christmas Convoy Star
Ken Kurwitz • Eureka, Calif. • Driving for 24 years
I’ve always liked trucks. The chrome, the sound — even the smoke that came out of the pipes back when I was a kid. I started driving after I graduated from California State Polytechnic University. My first driving job was hauling bulk tomatoes. We worked 16-hour days and slept in trailers, but it was nice because we got eight hours of sleep every night. Then I worked for about four years hauling Hostess goods for a local bakery. But I wanted to start doing something for myself.
Car hauling became my business in 1998. Now I have three trucks that haul cars to auction and to dealerships. Sometimes owning all of them is a good thing, sometimes a bad. But keeping a harmonious business, as far as keeping employees happy, customers happy and getting the job done right is the hard part.
The biggest thing we participate in every Christmas season is the Christmas Convoy parade in Eureka. It started in 1985, when a bunch of guys decided to put Christmas lights on their trucks and drive them over the big bridge over the bay. It became an annual deal, getting so big that they’ve actually had to scale it back in recent years. It usually involves 50 to 100 trucks lit up with lights.
I started in the parade back in 1988, when all I drove was a bobtail truck. Basically, you need some duct tape and lights. You start taping lights to your truck. Then when you’re done, get a generator and a little gas for the parade, and a lot of pizza and drinks for the help from friends.
But you get really creative too. It got more and more competitive as it grew, and for the first 10 years of the parade I didn’t do anything twice. I had vowed to do something different each year. We did Santa’s workshop, Candy Land, a snowy cabin, and even dairy cows in those first years. I’ve stopped being so competitive and just enjoy being there these days.
Now the truck sticks with a sleigh and reindeer theme. My dad George and I used to get together and brainstorm every year to figure out what new idea we could work out. I’m a dad, business owner and Boy Scout leader these days and don’t have the time to do different themes every year. But I think people really like the sleigh design. We have won first place with it for the last six years and get our names and pictures in the newspaper. We also win $800, which we donate to whichever organization the parade is benefiting that year.
Now the parade is something people in Eureka expect to see. It’s like fireworks on the Fourth of July. It’s part of our community. I don’t really know what inspired me to start doing the parade. I guess it makes me feel like a kid again, out showing off and having fun. And now it’s a family tradition that we start Thanksgiving weekend every year: my dad, wife, three kids and me.