Thursday, September 17, 2009

Towing Museum Facelift Precedes Hall of Fame Event

Here's the Chattanooga Times Free Press story:

Tow truck enthusiasts from around the world will descend on Chattanooga this weekend for a variety of events to celebrate the industry.

The International Towing & Recovery Museum will induct nine people into its hall of fame on Saturday, but the events surrounding the celebration kick off Friday night with a reception for the honorees.

Friday also marks the start of the Lookout Mountain Valley Tow Truck Show at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo. That event will have vendors from across the country selling everything from tow chains to lights, said Jerry Riggs, festival organizer and president of the Tennessee Tow Truck Association.

“This is a big weekend for the towing industry in Chattanooga,” Mr. Riggs said.

Cheryl Mish, director of the towing museum, said she expects between 500 and 700 people to be on hand for the induction ceremony.

The museum has put finishing touches on a three-month renovation project that gave the front of the building a new look. Mayor Ron Littlefield will speak at a name unveiling ceremony.

“We are really excited,” Mrs. Mish said. “It’s a really big thing for us.”

The renovation, funded by the Miller Family Foundation, put new facades on the building along with lighting and stone on the front. William Miller is chairman and co-chief executive officer of Chattanooga-based tow truck maker Miller Industries.

Mrs. Mish declined to say how much the renovation cost.

The 16,000-square-foot building opened in 1995 and is divided into three sections — a gift shop, the towing museum and an empty space available for events. Chattanooga was chosen as the site of the museum because Ernest Holmes built the first wreckers here in the early 1900s.

The nine men being inducted into the hall of fame hail from around the world, including Colorado, Montana, North Dakota and South Africa.

“This year’s inductees share a dedication to their state and local towing organizations as well as the national towing and recovery community,” said Rolfe Johnson, president of the towing hall of fame and museum.

The first induction ceremony was held in 1986.

After a one-year hiatus, the tow truck show has returned to Chattanooga for what Mr. Riggs hopes will continue as an annual event that coincides with the hall of fame event at the museum.

An 85-ton rotating wrecker will be the star of show, and will do demonstrations in the Choo-Choo parking lot.

Fifty tow trucks will take part in a “beauty contest” Saturday, Mr. Riggs said.

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