A Hot Time In Merced


There aren’t many things that are hotter than California’s Central Valley in the summer – except maybe a truck show being held there.  The 2nd Annual Soza Memorial Truck Show & Rodeo, held at Merced County Fairgrounds on June 24-26, 2022, was a hot event – and not just because of the weather!  The lot was filled with hot “California Cool” trucks, along with a few from out of town, as well.  With temps in the 100+ range for most of the event (it peaked at about 105 degrees on Saturday), the heat was so bad, show producers CG Soza and his wife Ashleigh decided to move it to a different season for next year.

With just shy of 140 trucks on the paved lot, about 15 vendors, and a few mobile food options, the turnout was pretty good.  There was definitely room for more trucks on the lot, but because of that terrible heat, we are sure many decided just to stay home.  I guess that means there is plenty of room for growth at next year’s event.  This show is held in memory of CG’s son AJ, who was killed several years ago in a car accident.  AJ had dyslexia, so CG and Ashleigh started a foundation in his honor to raise money for kids with this disorder (CG struggled with it as a kid, too).  This year, the show raised almost $20,000 for the AJ Soza Dyslexia Foundation!

The show layout was basic and simple – a few long rows of bobtails and combos, and a row of vendors at one end.  “The Driver’s Lounge” was a big tent in the center of the vendor space filled with tables and chairs, the auction items, and the registration/information areas.  The vendors who had booths set up included 10-4 Magazine, Truckin’ For Kids Charity Show & Drags, Sic Rigz Aluminum & Stainless Polishing, Bobtail Apparel, Botelho Custom Trucks, Borracho’s Apparel, Freitas Signs, PDI, The Magnet Man, Showtime Apparel, Monster’s Backyard BBQ & Catering, Bottoms Up Espresso, and Cab Air Systems.  Friday was pretty much a setup day, and most of the vendors spent the day preparing their displays, while the drivers parked their trucks and braved the heat, getting their trucks ready for judging.

On Saturday there was a hay squeeze race, but due to the excessive heat that afternoon, there was not much participation and even less spectators.  There were a few, however, who got out there and raced, and the winners were: 1st Ryan Johnston; 2nd Bobby Vaz; 3rd Eddie Baldes.  On Saturday night, before the light show, the band “Stagecoach” played a variety of tunes for everyone to enjoy.  After the sun went down, the temperature dropped enough to make being outside bearable, and many folks came to check out the light show.

As the truck judges filled out their scorecards and tabulated the votes, the competition was hot and heavy.  But Jeff Botelho and his judging crew did a great job of determining who was on-point that weekend and who maybe missed a thing or two.  Being a judge is a lot of work, and it isn’t easy.  I’m sure glad I didn’t have to do it – especially out in that blazing heat all weekend!

The lot was filled with many of the popular west coast fleets such as North Coast Wine, Silva Trucking, Robert Vaz Trucking, Arreche Hay, Rivera Trucking, J. Delgadillo Trucking, Double E, Lil Ray’s Transport, and a bunch of cool old trucks from De Jager Farms.  Some of the smaller outfits that stood out included Vince Jenkins of After Midnight Trucking and his blue Peterbilt 389 and matching heavy-haul trailer, Perez Trucking and their sterile flat green 2000 Peterbilt 379, Cone Trucking’s “his and hers” red and grey Peterbilt 389s, and Erik Vaillette’s red and black W900L.  A few more standouts were Pro Freight’s dark blue Peterbilt 389 with a polished reefer, Maravilla Transport’s slammed blue 2017 Peterbilt 389, and Miro Dragich’s well-known tan and brown Peterbilt transfer.

One of my very favorites at this truck show was Jose Serrano of Joe S. Transportation in San Martin, CA and his super cool white and red Kenworth W900L transfer.  Complete with custom engraved lug nuts, steps, door inlays, and knobs that were engraved by hand at Krazy Kutting in Arizona, this rig was laying low and looking good.

Once all the awards were handed out on Sunday morning, it was time for everyone to crank up their A/C and head out.  Sponsors are an important (and vital) part of any truck show.  This year’s sponsors, in addition to the previously mentioned vendors, included Redi-Gro, All Out Truck & Equipment Repair, Super Shop Auto Repair, West Coast Enterprises, Sunny D Mfg, Razzari Auto Centers, and Van De Pol Fuels & Lubricants.

Next year, the 3rd Annual Soza Memorial Truck Show will be held at the same location, but the time of year will be changed from summer to fall.  The dates have already been set for October 20-22, 2023, to try and beat some of that terrible Central California summer heat.  Mark your calendars and make plans to be at this hot California event – let’s just hope it’s not too hot!  And this year’s winners were:

NON-WORKING ANTIQUE: 1st Maggini & Sons Trucking; 2nd Lil Ray’s Transport; 3rd Rene Cavazos.

WORKING ANTIQUE: 1st Stan Alles Transport.

PETERBILT (1991-2001): 1st Rivera Trucking; 2nd Perez Trucking; 3rd Rico Ceja.

PETERBILT (2001 & NEWER): 1st North Coast Wine; 2nd J & J Hjelmstad; 3rd Lil Ray’s Transport.

KENWORTH: 1st Joe S. Transport; 2nd Hammer Lane Mafia; 3rd Cal Valley.

FREIGHTLINER: 1st Delgadillo Trucking; 2nd Anthony “Mungy” Munguia; 3rd MRC Trans.

COMBO (TANKERS): 1st North Coast Wine; 2nd Cain Trucking; 3rd North Coast Wine.

COMBO (FLATBED): 1st Arreche Hay; 2nd Robert Vaz Trucking; 3rd Rivera Trucking.

COMBO (VAN/REEFER): 1st North Coast Wine; 2nd Pro Freight; 3rd Pro Freight.

SPECIALTY: 1st Silva Trucking; 2nd After Midnight Trucking; 3rd Silva Trucking.

CABOVER: 1st Redi-Gro; 2nd De Jager Farms; 3rd De Jager Farms.

CONSTRUCTION: 1st Quality Material Transport; 2nd Vollmer Excavation; 3rd Hildebrand.

HEAVY DUTY WRECKER: 1st Prime Towing & Transport.

PRO. SHOW TRUCK (BOBTAIL): 1st C. Rocha Trans; 2nd Delgadillo Trucking; 3rd De Jager Farms.

PRO. SHOW TRUCK (COMBO): 1st North Coast Wine; 2nd Double E Trucking; 3rd Maravilla Transport.

HAY SQUEEZE: 1st Ryan Johnston; 2nd Bobby Vaz.

BEST LIGHTS: Tommy Stine, North Coast Wine.

BEST INTERIOR: Andrew, Double E Trucking.

BEST FLEET: 1st North Coast Wine; 2nd Robert Vaz, 3rd Arreche Hay Co.

BEST ENGINE: Chris Rocha, C. Rocha Enterprises.

FURTHEST TRAVELED: Tony Gonzalez, San Miguel Transport.

PRIDE IN YOUR RIDE AWARD: 1st Mello Trucking; 2nd Williamson Trucking; 3rd T&S.


AJ’S CHOICE AWARD: Perez Trucking.

PEOPLE’CHOICE: Elias Garcia, AG Trucking.

BEST OF SHOW: Double E Trucking (our July 2022 cover).

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