Black-tie boogie

| April 01, 2006

Along with nearly 60 other trucking industry professionals, team drivers Joanne and John Gilchrist dressed in formal wear and partied for a good cause.

If you had stopped at the Antique Automobile Museum in Hershey, Pa., the night of Feb. 18 looking for directions, you’d have been hard pressed to identify the elegantly-attired visitors as truck drivers. At least until they gave you perfect directions to your destination.

John and Joanne Gilchrist, for example, were at ease in their clothes: a traditional tuxedo with bow tie and cummerbund for John and a black and white floor-length evening gown with spaghetti straps, sequins and low back for Joanne. Nothing about their dress showed the 280,000 miles they put on their rig each year as team drivers for New Century Transportation.

“Just because we’re truck drivers doesn’t mean we’ve given up on lifestyle,” John says.

The Gilchrists joined nearly 60 other trucking industry employees at a formal ball to raise money for The Teddy Bear Education and Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps truck drivers and their dependents through financial crises. With no flannel, jeans or blue collars in sight, attendees to the first Truckers’ Ball danced until midnight, surrounded by antique cars, buses and one ancient Autocar. Along the way they raised hundreds for a new charity started by the ball’s organizer, Sheryl Youngblood, an industrial psychologist and host of the KnightTime radio program for truckers.

Youngblood says the event, which she hopes will be annual, was a success. “The drivers were beautiful. They wore their tuxes like they were everyday clothes.”

Owner-operator Lyndon Nutt of Las Cruces, N.M., faced the evening with a bit of trepidation, writing on his blog before the event: “I am sitting in a motel in Hersey, Pa., waiting to see what kind of fool I will make of myself at the Trucker’s Ball here. I will actually be wearing a tux; believe me, getting me out of jeans is not as easy task.”

But Nutt, like other drivers, blended effortlessly with trucking executives, four-wheelers and film makers from New York recording the event.

“With as much as I drive I don’t get much of a chance just to relax,” says Nutt, who is leased to Perkins Specialized Transportation. “I go home every six or seven weeks. I’m not here to look pretty. But it’s a chance to relax and meet people.”

One of the people he met was Shelly White, a Pennsylvania resident with no connection to the industry. She was attending the event after learning about it from Youngblood. “It’s really opened my eyes to truck drivers,” White says. “They’re a great bunch of people.”

Youngblood says she’s already received positive feedback and interest in next year’s event. For Joanne and John Gilchrist, who drove through an ice storm in Tennessee to make the event, the 2006 Ball was a great start.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Joanne says. “We like to dress up.”
Sean Kelley

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