by Greg Cooper February 28, 2021
The 1st Van Nationals® was held at Tiger Run, Colorado in 1973, hosted by Rocky Mountain Vans of Denver. The idea for a national van event was first proposed by Steve Green, staff writer for Hot Rod Magazine. The then editor of Hot Rod, Terry Cook wrote an editorial proposing this idea, looking for a potential host. Rocky Mountain Vans responded to the request, and put together the First National Truck-in. Hot Rod mag was not directly involved in the running of the event but still had a controlling interest. The National Truck-in®, as it was coined, was a big success and there was interest for it to continue. Hot Rod Mag and Terry Cook were instrumental in placing the second Nats. with Vans Am of Kansas as the host. The second National Truck-in® was held in Bonner Springs Kansas.
There was an organization based in Chicago called the National Street Van Association. It was growing in numbers and influence and was invited by Hot Rod magazine to be a part of the event. The following year the Nationals was hosted by the NSVA and Midwest vans. It was held at the Beach Bend Park in Bowling Green Kentucky, July 1975. To this point Hot Rod magazine was the determining factor in who was to host the event.
At the third National Truck-in® there were over 4000 vans in attendance, A lot more vans than they were prepared for. There were a number of vanners unhappy with the issues that came up. Then it was announced that the following year’s Nationals would again be held at Bowling Green. There were a number of vanners that took issue with that.
To make a long story short, Rocky Mountain Vans decided to trademark the name and take control of the National Truck-in®. By virtue of having hosted the first Nationals, they felt they had precedence over the name. They were subsequently awarded the trademark rights to the National Truck-in® name and would host the Fourth National Truck-in®.
RMV decided to Continue the tradition of passing the Nationals to worthy groups. RMV wasn’t going to be able to host the event every year, but would decide where it would be hosted, and by whom. They took bids from interested groups and would decide who would be awarded the event.
In 1981 Rocky Mountain vans announced the formation of a regional board. There were 9 members on that board, picked by RMV, each from a geographical region of the country. The purpose of the Board was to be the eyes and ears of Rocky Mountain Vans who at the time was the sole controller of the National Truck-in. The Boards duties consisted of studying applications of clubs or organizations from their area, and submitting recommendations to Rocky Mountain for final judgment, determining who would host the following year’s National Truck-in®. Originally that announcement was to be made at that year’s National Truck-in®.
None of those original board members are still on the board. In fact, there have been a number of changes over the years in the board’s membership. Within a few years of its original inception the board members picked alternates who would take their place if they were unable to fulfill their duties.
In the beginning there were no meetings scheduled for the board. They met informally at the Nationals each year and soon began meeting during the Council of Counsel’s weekend since most of them would attend there anyway.
By the early 1990s Rocky Mountain Vans determined that they would no longer be able to be the determining factor in who got the Nationals every year. At that time, they turned that responsibility over to the National Truck-in Board®. The Board then became incorporated. At that point, the responsibility of the Board increased greatly.
When the board was originally formed there were a number of groups and or clubs that wanted to host a National Truck-in®. But as you know over the years interest in doing that has diminished. It has gotten to the point where we do not have any groups interested in doing a Nationals in some years. In 2013 we had no bids. The Board had to step up and host the Truck-in ourselves.
Actually, in the last 10 years we’ve only had one National Truck-in that was done entirely independent of the Nats Board®. Was it not for the individual efforts of some of our members to put together a hosting group, the Nationals Board® would have been on the hook for doing several more National Truck-ins®?
The point is that this situation is not going to change. We will continue to have to go looking for people to host a Nationals.
We have come up with at least one alternative with our financing of the event to try to get more people involved in doing a National Truck-in®, but the reality is that the Nats Board® is going to be required to take more and more responsibility for this event if it is to continue.
So, what can you, as an individual vanner do?
Plenty! Volunteer. There are plenty of ways to help the National Truck-in®. Everyone has skills of some kind that would benefit the event. We need show judges every year. If you have done any kind of customizing, you are needed. Come to a meeting, or the show classification and volunteer to judge. We need people to help at classification. People to help add up judging sheets. People to help park vans the day of show. People to organize trophies for the presentation. That is just the show. There is trash to dispose of. Bathrooms to keep maintained. You like a clean restroom? So, does everyone, but no one wants to do it. We need people to man the gate. It is open for at least a week. It must have at least 2 people there at all times. People to man the headquarters. Selling ice is a full-time job. People to run games and activities, organizing entertainment, security personnel and more. As you can see there are a lot of people needed to pull off this event.
The board is made up of 18 vanners. 9 members and 9 alternates. These vanners are all volunteers. There is a support staff made up of vanners who help where they are needed. They too are volunteers. You can join the support group and be included in all of our meetings where your input is welcome. The nationals need to become a communal effort.
Look at it as the board and support group being no different from the host club of any event. The Nationals Board® is not some governing body of vanning. Our purpose is to host a truck-in every year. It just happens to be the largest van event of the year. Bringing in vanners from all over the world. Our goal is to make it the best van event every year. To do that It needs your support and help. Come join us.