August 20

This Day in History

Automotive

Aug 20, 2004:

Record-setting tow-truck parade held in Washington State

On August 20, 2004, 83 tow trucks roll through the streets of Wenatchee, Washington, in an event arranged by the Washington Tow Truck Association (WTTA). "The Guinness Book of World Records" dubbed it the world's largest parade of tow trucks. 

According to the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the first tow truck was the invention of a Chattanooga native named Ernest Holmes, who helped his friend retrieve his Model T Ford after the car slid into a creek. Holmes had previously assembled a system consisting of three poles, a pulley and a chain, all connected to the frame of a 1913 Cadillac. Holmes soon patented his invention, and began manufacturing the equipment to sell to garages and other interested customers out of a small shop on Chattanooga's Market Street. The Holmes brand went on to earn an international reputation for quality in the towing industry. 

The WTTA organized the August 2004 tow-truck parade as part of its annual Tow Show & Road-E-O event. Wenatchee's tow-truck world record came under assault from at least two quarters in 2008. In Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, that May 18, more than 250 tow trucks took part in a single-file parade organized by the New Hampshire Towing Association (NHTA). According to an article in The Hampton Union newspaper, all kinds of trucks--"Flatbeds, wheel-hook tow trucks, massive, 72-ton big-rig wreckers"--participated in the parade, which was followed by a driving skills competition and a tow-truck "beauty" contest. Rene Fortin, president of the NHTA, said that his organization had unofficially broken Wenatchee's record in 2005 with a parade of 235 trucks, but as the parade didn't fit Guinness' long list of requirements, it hadn't been accepted. World records aside, Fortin told The Hampton Union, the central goal of the parade was to revamp the image of the towing industry: "People don't often like towers, so this is our chance to show our good side." 

On September 20, 2008, the Metropolitan New York Towing Association threw its own hat into the ring. Two hundred and ninety-two tow trucks, including flatbeds, wreckers and 50-ton rotators, left Shea Stadium in Queens (previously the home of the New York Mets, the baseball park has since been demolished to make way for the Mets' new Citi Field) and traveled along the Van Wyck Expressway and the Belt Parkway before ending up at an abandoned airport tarmac at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. There, the trucks parked in a formation that spelled out the words "New York."

           

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