This year was my first MATS. My husband, three children and my teenager’s friend got there on Tuesday evening. I had naively thought I could see all I wanted of the show and help out at the Papa Johns Parking lot with the Trucker Charity tent and the charity booth in the main show. HA, I tell you, HA! MATS is huge, I mean HUGE!!!!! The building it is in is about twice the size of the little town we live in, and has about 25 times more people.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent socializing and getting the tent and the booth set up. A welcome surprise was the awesome people who were there simply to make sure the small city that formed in the parking lot were fed. Let me tell you, we were fed very well. Thursday the “work” began.
rThursday morning the kids and I went over to the convention center. The kids were going to walk around MATS, and I was going to hand out an uncountable amount of literature and flags to the attendees walking around. By mid-afternoon I had my spiel down pat and had said it hundreds if not thousands of times. Thursday night we went back to the parking lot and socialized some more as we all collapsed in our chairs. Still hadn’t seen any of the list of things that I had to see before I went back home.
Friday was reserved for the family and I to walk around the main show. I was still delusional in thinking that we could get to everything we wanted to see and see all the beautiful trucks outside. This was not to be. We walked around the show for 8 hours and didn’t see half of what I had written down that we HAD to see. In reality, I think we only got to three of the wings of the convention center, and the only way I was able to see the beautiful trucks outside was on the shuttle back and forth from the parking lot to the convention center.
Friday night, As the kids and the man went to the concert over in the main area, a storm like no other came up almost out of nowhere. The tents that we had so carefully set up with all the paraphernalia were very quickly emptied into the back of a trailer as the sky opened up and drenched those of us who were running back and forth with arm loads of things. Thank goodness that the wind decided to wait until we had emptied the tents before it decided to blow Operation Roger’s and Trucker Charity’s tents across the parking lot. Believe it or not, we were laughing and joking and some of us (Kerry Mullins) were being very silly despite all our hard work being undone in a matter of seconds.
By Saturday, new friends had become old friends. We quickly got the tents that weren’t ruined by the storm the night before set up and things labeled for the auction. The auction went off without a hitch thanks to the people behind the scenes running around like chickens. By now, the small city that was the Papa John’s parking lot had become a bigger city. People helping each other, and just an awesome sense of camaraderie. It was like a self contained community inside this huge city that was Louisville, Ky. We all watched out for each other and helped out with what ever needed done. For me, that is what the trucking community is. A subset of society that looks out for each other. A family that I am very proud to be a member of.
What would I advise for someone who is going to MATS for the first time? Wear comfortable shoes. Bring clothes for hot weather and cold weather and any weather in between. I had never seen so many climate changes in the space of 6 days. Bring a camper or your truck and stay in the parking lot. I missed so much by going to the hotel every night. Eat before you go to the show and don’t be afraid to leave the show to eat, either that or bring lots of money because the food at the show is very expensive. Use the digital catalog and form an itinerary. You are going to be incredibly overwhelmed if you don’t. And, if you don’t see everything this year, there is always next year.