By Bryan Wagner - 04/11/06

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Some of you know that you do not just roll into a venue on Friday morning and put on a killer show by Friday night.  For Orville & Gale Hill of the Southern Monster Truck Showdown series, they took their dedication for an event to new levels over the past inaugural year.  As with many of the other events, the Hills rolled into Okeechobee Florida four weeks prior to the “Bull Buckin and Monster Truckin” event sponsored by Advance Auto Parts.  Reason for such an early arrival was to personally meet with sponsors for the event, and round up all the little necessities that are involved in an event, such as concessions, parking, security, equipment, dirt, cars, and so on.

For myself, I’ve also been hard at work for the Okeechobee event while attending UCF here in Orlando.  Internet promotion mainly, coupled with talking with sponsors, sending off photos for event flyers/posters, and doing all show formats, intros/bios sheet, and sponsor lists.  But come the Wednesday prior to the event it was time to make the trip down to Okeechobee myself.  Okeechobee is only about an hour and a half south of me in Orlando.  Just get off at good old Yeehaw Junction and it’s only about another 30 miles south!

Wednesday evening I pulled in to greet Grandma and Grandpa who were the only ones there.  For those who don’t know, Southern Monster Truck Showdown is truly one big family.  Orville’s father and mother come to all of our events with their travel trailer and cook home-style food for everyone all weekend long.  The Monkey’n Around truck was on display in near-by Vero Beach so I got a chance to walk around the arena, check out the cars, and sit and chat with Grandma and Grandpa and Simon (their dog).




Soon after Bennett Clark pulled in with his wife Joy and their 4 dogs.  I jokingly suggested that we are going to have a monster truck dog show one of these days.  Once the Monkey’n Around team pulled in we all went off to Beef O Brady’s, one our sponsors for the event, for dinner, and then back to the arena to meet up with Steven Hill and Jack, the Monkey’n Around crew chief.  It was myself, Steven, and Jack in a hotel room as usual for the weekend, which always provides for some wild entertainment.  We headed off to bed ready to work in the morning.


Thursday is always hump day for me at a show, I like to get as much work as I physically can do done on Thursday so on Friday we can just roll in and do the show.  Thanks to Action Auto Salvage, our cars were about 75% prepared when they got to the track.  So I started on hanging all of the banners around the arena.






I was called away from finishing the track to go relieve Bennett & Joy who were on display at Eli’s Western Wear.  They went to get lunch while I sat and watched the truck and answered questions of people who passed by.  Well… two hours later they return, apparently I was on permanent watch for the afternoon.  I felt bad sticking the track guys I had back at the track with the rest of the work on the cars, but they were great and got a lot done.  Thursday wrapped up with the Sudden Impact crew of Brandon, Tim, and Doc rolling in and Dingus finally getting all of his “toys” to the arena.  We found an awesome pizza joint near the hotel and 15 of us invaded it for dinner before heading off to bed.


Friday morning started interesting as well.  Donnie our announcer got in early as did Hartsock with his two trucks.  I found out that our sound equipment finally got in at 1:30 AM the night before, thanks to an all day/night drive by Super Truck Challenge driver Bobby Brown to haul it down here.  Donnie blew out a bass speaker in Inverness (we like to crank it up at our shows) at the equipment was being repaired in Tifton GA for the past 3 months.  Finally, it was finished on Wednesday, but we had no way of getting it.  We called upon Bobby Brown who drove all night to get it to Okeechobee by Thursday night at 1:30 AM, then Bobby was going to drive back to his home in Jacksonville that night (a good 5 hour drive) to get his Pro Arena Truck and take it over to Dothan, AL to race Friday night at another event.

I thought I was ahead of the curve but early on Friday I realized just how much was left to be done.  We had to setup the sound system, setup novelties, paint the track, and build the racing ramps.  Not to mention get with the rodeo riders, security, concession, and sponsors as they rolled in.  We did a sound check around two o’clock with the mics and the music.  As we were wrapping up the sound check a police officer pulled in.  I thought he was a part of the police escort to get some of the trucks on display, but he was there to inform us that the clinic next door had called in a noise complaint on us and we had to keep it down until after 5.  Our first noise complaint and we were only at about 35% volume!

Everything else got done on time and gates opened on schedule.  Unfortunately for Clydesdale bad luck hit early.  Clydesdale had smacked the wall a few weeks ago at another event, and problems were beginning to surface from the contact.  As Clydesdale pulled into the pit party, the transmission began to fail.  Bennett pulled the truck back to his hauler and found a massive crack had formed on the bell housing.  But thanks to a lot of hard effort, the transmission was out and a new one was in and ready for show time.  The show went off right on time, and surprisingly the show flow itself went well, without any major issues.  This was all in part of the drivers being on the ball with the unique show format, the track crew working hard and quick, and our sponsors were in line to keep the show flow going as well, which is rare as we are usually running them down as they are sitting in the stands.














After the show I met up with Courtney Jolly, who came to see our show, and all the drivers and crew members went to the back to enjoy two big cooked hams.  Before the night was over I saw Tim Bush looking at the Sudden Impact truck with a flashlight, I asked what was wrong and he pointed to the cradle of the truck.  A hairline crack had formed and the cradle itself was actually beginning to crack in half!  Welding would have to be done in the morning for the SI crew.  The night was not over once we got to the hotel rooms.  As always, the Monkey’n Around and Sudden Impact teams have to battle it out in some sense, and this time it consisted of a soap and shaving cream fight between the rooms.  So much for getting a good nights sleep.

Saturday morning consisted of moving all of the cars out of the arena and setting up all brand new cars for the Saturday show.  The track crew got hard at work at painting the cars, while Orville came in to help adjust the racing ramps so the trucks would catch more air.  Steven and Jack worked on some fuel injector issues the Monkey’n Around truck had the night before, Scott took the left rear quarter panel off the Gun Slinger truck due to damage on Friday night, and Doc began welding the frame on Sudden Impact.





At noon all the drivers and crew went to Beef O Brady’s for a “Monster Truck Lunch”, which all the fans could come up and have lunch with the drivers and have autographs signed.  The Rage-N-Rebel truck was on display as well as live music playing from Donnie.  During the lunch, Gale Hill joked about some of the dance music Donnie was playing.  Gale suggested we do a “Monster Truck Dance-Off” during introductions, which all of the drivers laughed at as a funny joke.  Jason, the crew guy who drove Cowboy for introductions, said there was absolutely no way he would ever do that!



The picture above from the back left to right is Brandon, Dingus (he cleans up alright!), Steven Hill, then Bennett Clark, and Rich from Sudden Impact Racing and ExtremeRednecks.com.  Bennett is holding “Flat Stanley”.  Flat Stanley is a project created by a 3rd grade class in Long Beach Mississippi.  Flat Stanley was crushed one day by a bulletin board, he was ok, but now he is flat.  His wish was to travel the country.  So each student in the class got a Flat Stanley and sent it to one person.  This 3rd Grader, Brian, got Bennett’s home address and sent him Flat Stanley to tour with Clydesdale.  Bennett and Joy took Flat Stanley everywhere this weekend and got pictures to send Brian back to show where Flat Stanley had been.  They will return him at the end of the month to Brian in Mississippi.

Back at the arena it was time to get the show on the road.  But having two smooth shows in a row is almost too much to ask for the monster truck Gods above.  About a half hour before the show began our fork lift busted a starter, and with our Car-Van-Car stack set outside the arena, we knew we were in trouble.  Meanwhile while introductions were about to wrap up, Donnie comes over the mic and announces that, in fact, we are going to have the first ever Monster Truck Dance-Off.  Donnie hit the music, and Brandon and Scott being the hams that they are got right down to dancing on the tires of their trucks.  Soon after Steve and Bennett gave in and started to dance, and even I started to dance on the floor of the arena as I was standing at the entrance of the tunnel.  Dingus came out with his wife, “Charlotte Belle”, who immediately ran over and began to dance with Orville, much to his embarrassment.  Finally, Jason with Cowboy broke down and began to dance as well, and once we saw that we knew we had a winner, for finally giving in and letting himself have some fun, Jason wins the dance off.





Once the racing portion of the show was complete and we setup for the bull riders, we frantically tired to get chains around the cars to get them out there for freestyle.




Once the bull riders were done we started to drag the first car out onto the track, but it was a tight fit to get through the entrance way with a car, so we had to maneuver slowly to get into the arena safely.  Stuck behind us with Johnny with the Rage-N-Rebel truck, who yelled to me to come over.  He said he had chains with his truck, he could grab the car and the van and drag them into the arena, I said sure go for it!  Sure enough once we got the car on the tractor into the arena, Rage-N-Rebel came blasting in with a van dragging behind it, to the roar of the crowd.

As that went on Brandon and Dingus decided to have some fun.  Brandon got his 4-wheeler from the back and took Dingus on his skis and drug him around the arena floor for the fans while we wrapped up the van stack.  Everything was ready to go within our 15 minute time limit for intermission, and freestyle went off great with all the trucks doing a fantastic job.





The show was over and the crowd went home happy, which is all we could ever ask for.  Back in the pits it was time to celebrate a great weekend with some more home cooked food and general chit chat about the evening at hand.











Sunday is usually a relax day as we begin to tear down, but we got a call at 6:50 AM telling us to get to the track immediately, as a bad storm was rolling in and tornados were spotted in the area.  An hour and a half later we had the track cleared, the banners down and put away, and the sound system disassembled.  The rains thankfully missed the arena but drenched surrounding areas, that’s Florida for you.  Beat tired from many days of work but looking back on an empty arena made me feel like I had come in and helped accomplish something great for a small community to enjoy, and I left with a feeling of accomplishment, and the confirmation that we will rock Okeechobee again next year.  Thanks for reading!!

Bryan Wagner - Monster Blog Special Contributor