In a workshop tucked away in the Millstream Industrial Park, surrounded by trucks of all shapes and sizes, one woman has been working since before Halloween to make sure she’s ready to spread a little holiday cheer.
Christin Schroeder has been spending her evenings and weekends – after driving those trucks that surround her – shut up in that shed, painstakingly crafting her display for next week’s Island Equipment Owners Association Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive.
“It’s a lot more than throwing stuff on a truck,” Schroeder said. “It’s not like decorating your house. You have to engineer it.”
The displays not only have to be road-worthy, she said, the gas-powered generators running them have to make it through the entirety of the parade, which can run upwards of three hours.
“There’s definitely a lot of trial and error,” she said with a laugh, and reminisced about past parades where passengers have climbed on the backs of trucks to refuel dry generators while the convoy was still moving.
Schroeder’s boyfriend, Chad Richmond, son of Wayne Richmond of Wayne’s Trucking Ltd., has helped along the way by engineering a turntable to showcase all of the hand-painted characters she’s crafted over the past two years for the event. Well, that’s his goal at least. He laughs as he admits he’s been through a few different designs, none of which have made the grade just yet. But the pair haven’t given up hope.
Schroeder, pulls her long blonde hair away from her black work jacket. “Everyone’s got to out-do each other,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes, as the who’s who of Whoville lay propped up against the side of the shed, complete with a Christmas tree decked with glistening red ribbon. The Grinch’s lair on the top of Mt. Crumpit is even beginning to take shape. “You just keep adding … I have a million and a half ideas, but you have to draw the line somewhere,” she said.
Which can be quite hard to do seeing as how these trucks, unlike regular parade floats, are in use right up until the event and are have to be used for work first thing Monday morning. Schroeder noted some groups pull all-nighters on Friday just to have the trucks ready for show time on Saturday evening.
This year the duo is lucky, they were able to scrounge up a trailer that wasn’t being used to build their display on, so they’ve had a bit of a head start in re-creating Whoville. What they’ve done in a short time is nothing short of miraculous.
“It’s a lot of gruelling hours … but you’re burnt out with a grin on your face,” she said as her co-pilot and beloved husky, Mack, sat at her feet. “I wish people could see it from our point-of-view.”
Between the families, excited children and seniors who come out on their own just to wave at them, Schroeder said, it makes all the effort worth it. “It’s the best payoff ever … You remember it all year round.”
The couple have seen some crazy things along the route over the years, but quite possibly their favourite was seeing an entire downtown street corner filled with Santa Claus can-can dancers.
Schroeder, who has been driving trucks for D.F. Bowcott Trucking Ltd. for roughly two years now, is no stranger to the convoy. She figures she has been involved in some way with the event for 13 years. In fact, she and Richmond’s first date was watching the parade. The following year she helped his father decorate a truck for the parade and the tradition was born. “It’s been cool watching it grow,” she said.
The lighted truck convoy once ran a small route around Watkiss Way for the children at Victoria General Hospital. As more municipalities got involved, others wanted to get more involved, Richmond said.
He remembers driving when the route didn’t have a police escort and all of the trucks had to stop at traffic lights. “It was just mayhem,” he said, laughing. Now it doesn’t matter where you are on the route, it’s lined with people eagerly waiting for them.
“It’s pretty neat that it’s becoming such a huge thing for the community,” Schroeder said.
In fact, the convoy is the envy of many other communities. Richmond said Cloverdale holds its event on Sunday night and even pays for a number of the trucks to come over on the ferry so Islanders can be a part of their event.
“It’s just bonkers,” added Schroeder. One year she found herself on the last ferry back to the Island, un-decorating four or five trucks so they could be ready for work Monday morning. She got back to the yard just after midnight and had to be back again before 5 a.m.
“Every year you’re exhausted,” she said. But “a lot of people say it’s their holiday kickoff,” and in a sense it is for these two as well.
Or at least it’s a good reminder for us all of that famous line from Dr. Seuss’ ***How the Grinch Stole Christmas: “What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Mark your calendar
- The IEOA Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive reaches the Helmcken Road and Trans Canada Highway overpass at roughly 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5 and ends at Western Speedway around 8:30. Entry to the track is by donation or non-perishable food item.
- Spectators may not donate items to operators while their trucks are in the convoy, but donation collection spots will be located around the region, including on the West Shore.
- For a list of collection locations and advance drop-off points, plus the convoy route, go to ieoa.ca.