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'We see people light up': Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive to illuminate Greater Victoria streets for the 23rd year

The trucks, decked out in festive lights and holiday decor, will travel from Ogden Point to Western Speedway on Saturday

By Emily Fagan
December 3, 2021
Good news
Features

'We see people light up': Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive to illuminate Greater Victoria streets for the 23rd year

The trucks, decked out in festive lights and holiday decor, will travel from Ogden Point to Western Speedway on Saturday

By Emily Fagan
Dec 3, 2021
Photo: Island Equipment Owners Association
Good news
Features

'We see people light up': Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive to illuminate Greater Victoria streets for the 23rd year

The trucks, decked out in festive lights and holiday decor, will travel from Ogden Point to Western Speedway on Saturday

By Emily Fagan
December 3, 2021
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'We see people light up': Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive to illuminate Greater Victoria streets for the 23rd year
Photo: Island Equipment Owners Association

One of Christin Schroeder’s first dates with the man she married took place at Victoria’s Truck Light Convoy two decades ago this year. It was her first time meeting his parents—his father was driving one of the trucks—but what Schroeder remembers the most is the excitement that rose up in her as she watched the large work trucks glowing on that cold night. It was that moment, she said, that she knew this parade was something she had to be a part of.

The next year, at age 16, she drove in her first Truck Light Convoy. Now, Schroeder is in her 18th year as a truck driver in the parade, and will be joined by her husband and their three-year-old on the drive along this year’s route.

“Driving in the truck, we see these people light up,” she said.  “My cheeks hurt by the end of the convoy from smiling so much.”

This Saturday will be the Island Equipment Owners Association’s 23rd year operating the Truck Light Convoy and Food Drive. To many, this event signals an unofficial start to the holiday season—but it’s also a large-scale fundraiser that has collected nearly 80,000 kg of donated food over the years for local food banks.

A small group of local truck drivers first began the convoy by decorating their trucks with lights and driving around the local hospitals, Schroeder said. Over the years, the parade has gained a police escort and played host to a total of about 700 trucks—although never all at once. Wendy Watt, manager of IEOA, says that the parade is capped at 80 trucks per year.

The commercial trucks decked out in inflatable holiday decor and thousands of lights will travel a 35 km route from Ogden Point through five Greater Victoria municipalities before ending up at Western Speedway, beginning at 5:45 pm. To help offset the environmental impact of trucks idling through streets, the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association has purchased carbon offsets.

Pulling off this large-scale parade and fundraiser is no easy feat, especially for truck drivers who have limited time to prepare their rigs after returning home from work on Friday evening.

“Saturday will be a mad scramble for most of our participants: taking their vehicles off the road, washing them and cleaning them and decorating them,” Watt said.

“A lot of them work through the night Friday night and Saturday morning to be ready for Saturday night.”

All of the lights and decorations displayed on the trucks are bought and constructed by the drivers and their families, which can come at a significant cost. Schroeder said that drivers often get competitive with the extravagance of their displays.

“I personally spend at least $1,000, $2,000 a year on stuff from my own money,” she said. “So it's kind of like an addiction.”

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Schroeder likes to create her displays based around a fictional world. When she first started out, she adorned her truck with characters from the Simpsons, but in recent years she has focused her efforts on bringing to life Dr. Seuss’s Whoville on her 48-foot trailer. Aside from the lights, most of her display is hand-crafted.

She’s learned the hard way to use guy wires to secure her characters, so even those on the homemade turntable will stay intact throughout the ride.

“I’ve had a few casualties, it’s a live and learn thing,” Schroeder said. Back before the convoy had a police escort, she recalls running out from the cab of her truck during red lights to reboot the generator powering all her lights.

Currently, she has 12 plywood Whoville residents, three houses, the Grinch and his dog Max on a 10-foot mountain, and a large present. The whole scene is lit by 35 strands of pink lights.

The Grinch's Lair is just a small part of Christin Schroeder's handcrafted Whoville. Photo: Christin Schroeder

“It's exhausting, but it's so fun,” she said.

This will be the convoy’s first time hitting the streets since the pandemic, as the association decided to cancel last year’s event as a COVID precaution. Even without the convoy itself, they raised $18,500 in donations for local food banks through their members, which went to support the Mustard Seed, Goldstream Food Bank, and Saanich Peninsula Lions.

People eager to donate this year can bring warm clothes, non-perishable food, or gift cards to donation points including Western Speedway, Oak Bay City Hall and the Westshore Recreation Centre. Online donations are also accepted.

Most longtime Greater Victoria residents have their favourite spots to watch the parade from—but for Watt, she can’t wait to see it all come together with the finale at Western Speedway. It’ll be the culmination of many long hours and hard work from her, dozens of volunteers, and the many truck drivers that make the annual event possible.

“From the grandstand at the speedway, you can see all the trucks,” Watt said. “They're all sitting there glowing, and there’s music going, and it's just a really awesome moment to absorb all the effort that’s gone into the trucks.”

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