Even after 27 years, Special Rigs for Special Kids remains a unique, community-focused occasion.
Happening this Sunday, the event will again see a huge convoy of trucks roll out of the Edgar Centre car park, offering children with special needs a front seat to the action.
The highlight of the year for many, Special Rigs for Special Kids follows a circuitous route through South Dunedin, over Corstorphine to Kaikorai Valley, up Taieri Rd and over Three Mile Hill to Mosgiel, before heading back to Dunedin via Fairfield and Green Island.
“It’s a very special community event,” organiser Greg Inch said.
“There’s wee kids with signs and that on the street, with the names of kids in the trucks. It has a far-reaching effect.”
Mr Inch has been involved since he, Andy Willetts, and Glen Jacobs developed the very first Special Rigs for Special Kids event back in 1992.
It’s been a long time and a lot of work, but Mr Inch still enjoys the event.
“Quite often the week leading up, it gets a bit overwhelming.”
“But on the day you know it’s all worth it. When you get there, you go ‘this is so cool!'”
He relates a story of being approached in the street one morning by someone wishing to thank him for his work.
The man told Mr Inch that he probably didn’t realise that special needs families generally aren’t able to attend a lot of events.
Special Rigs for Special Kids offered them a great opportunity each year to get together and network with other families in similar situations.
“That’s a really good spin-off that makes it special too,” Mr Inch said.
“And when you see some of these kids, they’re that excited. They just wait for Special Rigs, it’s more important than anything else on the calendar. It usually takes about an hour to do the loop, and some of them are asleep in the cab, but they’re happy.”
Planning starts again for the next year immediately after the event, with the committee working fairly intensively in the months leading up to it. Mr Inch is in awe of their dedicated work in making it happen every year.
While the organisers never know who’s going to show up on the day – both in terms of drivers and kids – they have incredible support from the industry, allowing them to hold such an impressive event annually.
“The transport companies just get behind it: Fulton Hogan, Downers, even the small ones. They’re there every year,” Mr Inch said.
“We’ve got second generation drivers coming through – sons and daughters of drivers that have been in it for years. They’re now driving with mum and dad. That’s really cool.”
Sponsors also support Special Rigs for Special Kids in a huge way, and unlike most other events, there are no naming rights involved.
“We don’t let anyone put a stake in the ground, and yet the sponsors still support us and give us what they can,” Inch says.
“I still consider Dunedin a city with a community heart, and this strikes a chord with them. It’s a good feeling with the drivers, the kids, everyone on the street. That is the crux of it, that community feel and what everyone gets out of it.”
Last year, that was recognised nationally when Mr Inch won the VTNZ outstanding contribution to road transport award for his work on Special Rigs for Special Kids.
That recognition from his industry peers is one of the highlights of his years of organising the event.
He has great contacts with the necessary authorities that make it possible each year, including at the NZ Transport Agency, the Dunedin City Council, and the New Zealand Police.
An emphasis on safety has seen a slight route change this year. Instead of the convoy heading down the main street of Mosgiel, the trucks will turn left off Dukes Rd into Puddle Alley, which leads on to Factory Rd, and on to Hagart Alexander Dr, before meeting Gordon Rd by the railway crossing.
“We appreciate the support of Mosgiel, but safety is paramount with us,” Inch says. “It’ll make it easier on the motorists and everything else. It’s a Catch-22 situation, but there are good viewing spots, and a lot of people are going to get to see it for the first time.”
There will be some entertainment at the Edgar Centre, and once they have returned, children, caregivers, and drivers can enjoy a barbecue together.
Children under 7 are required to bring their own car seat or booster seat with them, and there is a maximum speed of 40kmh throughout the event.
While no money is raised on the day, there is an event for for drivers and sponsors in the evening, including an auction where money is raised for charity.
Special Rigs for Special Kids departs the Edgar Centre, Dunedin, at 11am on Sunday, August 25.