The Labor Day Truck Parade


Seth Gibson

As Labor Day morning began, Dan Geurink hopped into his truck to begin the short drive from Zeeland to Holland. For the last 8½ years, he and his long-time friend Larry Kalmink, or “Sleepy Trucker” as other truckers called him, poured lots of energy into refurbishing a truck Kalmink bought. As time passed, however, Kalmink became very sick, and was diagnosed with colon cancer, leaving the truck untouched for about a year. In that time, Geurink drove along the countryside with his friend, talking and making memories. Kalmink insisted that Geurink have the unfinished truck under two conditions: have it completely functional, and have it shown for the world to see, in memory of him.

  Now, having entered the Truck Parade in remembrance of his late friend, Geurink drove 1975 Peterbilt down the streets of Downtown Holland with all the other trucks, the tan and brown decal glinting in the morning sunlight. On the back of the cab are the words “Sleepy’s Dream: In Memory of Larry Kalmink” for everyone to see. As Geurink passes by the families that attended, he waves and honks his horn.

  This is the Labor Day Truck Parade, an annual event in honor of the Michigan workers and businesses. Each truck represents a story in the Holland community, whether a personal story alike Geurink’s, or the success story of Holland businesses. The event started at Herman Miller in Zeeland, where the parade of trucks drove their way through downtown Zeeland and Holland. The parade ended at the Holland Civic Center, where the trucks unloaded for a free ice-cream social.

  Shannon Yanek took the reigns as parade manager for the first time this year. She learned a lot from her first parade. Part of her job was to advise the trucks as they parked at the Civic Center, which seemed an impossible task. The Truck Parade presents more than two million dollars worth in trucks, so nothing could be damaged. This year also featured nearly 70 trucks instead of the usual 50-60, so there may not have been enough room at the parking lot.  Yanek’s efforts and attention to detail ensured a smooth end to the parade, despite her concerns.

  Yanek found this parade to be an enlightening experience. Not only is the parade special because it takes place in two townships, but it also effectively connects the two communities. It sheds light and respect on the Holland workforce, which Yanek praises highly. “Without the labor force, this wouldn’t be such a great place to work and live,” Yanek says.

  By next year, the Truck Parade will return to its route from Zeeland to Holland, continuing the community tradition and making dreams, like Kalmink’s dream, come true. So mark your calendars for next year’s Labor Day, because this is a great family event that cannot be missed.

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