A truck beauty contest, a drivers’ skills challenge and a massive parade of vehicles are part of this year’s annual Tow Show, happening Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, at Hampton Beach State Park.
This year’s show, put on by the New Hampshire Towing Association, is being held in memory of Rene Fortin, who died in September after serving for president of the NHTA for more than 40 years, according to current president Ralph Cresta.
“He was great to work with,” Cresta said. “I worked under him for a long time. The weekend is going to be dedicated to him, and his family will be there. He’s got a great family and I’m looking forward to seeing them.”
The NHTA has a full slate of events scheduled for the weekend, including a tow rodeo, a tow parade, a truck beauty contest, a “Light Up the Night” barbecue, towing demonstrations, raffles, silent auctions and more.
The Tow Show begins on Saturday at 9 a.m., with registration beginning at 8 a.m. with the tow rodeo, which is essentially a skills challenge for tow truck drivers. According to Cresta, the tow rodeo is “kind of like a CDL test, but a little more challenging,” referring to the Commercial Driver’s License that towers must obtain to legally drive a tow truck.
The tow rodeo includes cars, carriers, large tractor trailers, backing up to a fence and getting as close as possible without hitting it, timed driving pull-ups and more. The rodeo is split into different divisions and will cost $20 per division, lasting most of the day on Saturday.
Also happening on Saturday is the truck beauty contest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Demonstrations will take place all day and include tow trucks retrieving cars over stone walls, cars flipped over, and cars on top of each other.
Then, on Sunday beginning at 9 a.m., the Tow Show’s annual parade starts off from Seabrook and ends back at the Tow Show site in the Hampton Beach State Park. Cresta said that the parade is going to include tow trucks from all over the Northeast, including people “from New York all the way up to Presque Isle.” The New Hampshire Motor Speedway will join in the parade as well.
Fortin, who was inducted into the International Towing Museum’s Hall of Fame two weeks before he died, played an integral part in building up the annual Tow Show. He had an especially influential impact on the Sunday parade, drawing huge crowds to watch the tow trucks pass through.
“[Fortin] has been involved in the New Hampshire Tow Show widely recognized across the New England area and nation for years and held the World Record until recently for tow trucks in a parade,” the International Towing Museum’s website said about Fortin’s involvement with the parade. “Every year thousands of people lined the street cheering on the trucks passing the beach and quite frankly wondering where in the heck was the accident!? Has to be a big one!”
Also occurring on Sunday at the Tow Show is the Light Up the Night barbecue at 6 p.m.; car racing through the day; trophies and prizes handed out for Saturday’s rodeo and various other events; and a number of vendors and demonstrators displaying their trucks and vehicles to the public.
Cresta believes the Tow Show creates a strong sense of community between towers and their surrounding townspeople, as well as shining awareness on the danger and importance of towers’ jobs day in and day out.
“We’ve had many tow truck drivers hit throughout the country,” said Cresta. “Just over a year ago we lost a gentleman in Massachusetts down near Lawrence. That’s just going on more and more around the country. … We’re just trying to slow it down some. I believe we’re losing a tower every six or eight days — we’re just trying to make people aware.”
Fortin was one of the leaders in fighting for the New Hampshire Move Over Law that “requires [drivers to] reduce speed and change lanes when approaching a disabled or emergency vehicle,” according to the International Towing Museum’s website.
In honoring Fortin’s legacy, the NHTA is also continuing to advocate for tower safety and bringing the people of New England together to observe and celebrate all that towers do.
“It’s neat to see all the towers you see every day but you don’t see every day,” Cresta said. “Now you can sit down and talk with them for 15 or 20 minutes from different parts of the New England area and have a conversation and not be worried about getting called and you have to go somewhere. … But we’ve still got to continue doing our job even though we’re having this little trade show and rodeo.”
— Caleb Jagoda