TERRE HAUTE —
If you hang out at the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza this weekend in Terre Haute, it won’t take you long to see what all the fuss is about.
It boils down to one word: Power.
When full-size pickup trucks drag tens of thousands of pounds in competitive pulls, they spew oil-black smoke into the air, their wheels spin, mud flies from their tires and their motors thunder with pure diesel force.
Seconds later, when the pull is over, the Action Track crowd cheers its approval and a clear blue sky suddenly seems overcast, as the black smoke wafts by and the next truck gets ready to go.
Beneath all the beer, country music, sleeveless T-shirts, cowboy boots and barbecue grills, the attraction of the three-day event seems to be raw, diesel power.
“This place is awesome,” said Blake Krieger, 28, of southeastern Indiana. Krieger has been coming to the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza since he was 16, only missing one year due to attending a buddy’s wedding. It was the worst possible weekend for a wedding, he remembers telling his friend.
Krieger and three friends, Samantha and Anna Ochs and Bobbo Eckstein, were camped on the west side of the fairgrounds in one of dozens of large campers, all pulled by diesel pickups.
That’s part of the appeal of diesel trucks, Krieger said. They can be as fast as a souped-up Ford Mustang but are also practical.
“I use mine everyday,” Krieger said of his 2006 pickup with 375,000 miles on it. And that sort of mileage is not unusual, he said. Lots of diesel trucks go for hundreds of thousands of miles while still running strong.
Technology has changed on diesel trucks in recent years, giving them a lot more speed off the start, said Dan Bergman of Ceder Falls, Iowa, whose rented camper was close to the 4-H buildings at the fairgrounds. Just a few feet away, a north-south interior fairground’s road was closed to traffic with large concrete barriers. That’s to keep attendees at the event from burning rubber up and down the roadway, he said.
“That used to be burnout row,” Bergman said of the roadway.
The diesel extravaganza in Terre Haute is the place to be for anyone interested in diesel pickup trucks, said Scott Hallberg, who drove to the event from Minnesota with three friends, including Mike Rushmeyer.
“There’s nothing like this in Minnesota,” Rushmeyer said as the two unpacked their truck and headed for the grandstands area where the Friday morning pulls were set to begin.
“For diesel, this is the best stuff you’re going to see anywhere,” Hallberg added.
The three-day event has gotten some negative publicity in recent years, several attendees admitted, mostly having to do with activities away from the fairgrounds. But, in many ways, activity inside the fairgrounds has become much more tame in recent years, they said.
“It used to be a lot wilder,” Krieger said. Attendees also believe the event is a huge boost to the local economy. One local liquor store manager said he does his best business this weekend, Krieger reported. And folks are already booking hotel rooms for next year, he said.
The Vigo County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police both reported no arrests or incidents associated with the extravaganza Thursday night.
Trucks parked at the fairgrounds Friday morning sported license plates from all over the Midwest and beyond, including Texas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Delaware, Missouri and Illinois.
While the extravaganza officially started Friday, many people arrived for camper slots on Wednesday, Bergman said. This year the crowds seem larger and it was lucky he managed to find one of the remaining camper sites with electricity, he said.
So, for three full days, thousands of diesel enthusiasts will make Terre Haute their temporary home. While there is a serious side to the event, the party atmosphere (attendees drinking beer well before lunch is not unusual) is obvious, too.
“If you want to see diesel, this is the place to go,” said Bergman standing outside his camper. “And it’s a good time.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@ tribstar.com