Teen truck enthusiast serves as Junior Grand Marshal for annual truck show
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A 15-year-old Almont boy, who has ties to Grayling, was the star of a huge truck show held in the Upper Peninsula earlier this month in more than namesake only.
Carter Starr served as the Junior Grand Marshal for the 23rd annual Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show held in St. Ignace Sept. 14-16. The event was sponsored by The St. Ignace Visitors Bureau, the National Association of Show Trucks, and the International Trucking School.
Crane was the founder of the International Trucking School and envisioned hosting a truck show in the Upper Peninsula. Crane passed away on March 1, 1996, after battling lung cancer.
Last year, Starr’s grandparents, Mary and Clarence Ojala, who are Grayling residents, asked if they could get Carter a ride in the truck show’s Parade of Lights. The parade serves as the grand finale for the truck show as all the trucks and big rigs make their way from St. Ignace, cross the Mackinac Bridge into Mackinaw City, then make the return trip.
The show is hosted at the Little Bear Arena and in downtown St. Ignace.
Starr is a freshman at Almont High, located just south of Imlay City in the Thumb. He has Cerebral Palsy, a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture, which is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.
Starr uses a walker when he can, and utilizes a power wheel chair for long distances.
Carter’s father, Loren, and his grandfather, Paul, have operated an excavating business for four decades. He has grown up around the equipment used on jobs, and enjoys spotting the big rigs as they are traveling to Grayling and on trips to see the Great Lakes.
“He has always been into equipment and took a liking to it,” said Carter’s mother, Melanie Starr, a 1991 Grayling High School graduate.
Mary Ojala renewed her request to get Carter in the Parade of Lights earlier this year. Fran Bernad, Crane’s daughter and an organizer for the truck show, invited Carter to be the Junior Grand Marshal for the event.
“It was just fabulous,” Mary said. “They were so good to us. It was amazing.”
There were over 200 trucks that took part in the truck show, showcasing their ornate paint jobs, chrome work, and lights.
“It was a really cool experience and all the truckers we’re really welcoming,” Melanie said. “A lot these trucks come from a long way away.”
Carter met and had a photo taken with Alex Debogorski, a star in the reality television series on the History Channel that features the activities of drivers who operate trucks on seasonal routes crossing frozen lakes and rivers in remote Arctic territories in Canada and Alaska.
Carter and his dad took part in the Parade of Lights in a truck from Joey's Towing & Recovery Inc., a Detroit based company.
“He was just thrilled with the amount of people. The streets were just lined with people,” Melanie said. “It was a lot fun and there lot of family-friendly things to do.”
The event not only showcases the fancy rigs and semis, but raises money for the Helen Moss Cancer Research Foundation. It also supports scholarships to train men and women to drive trucks.
This year, Truckers Against Trafficking, an organization that combats human trafficking, took part in the show. Statistics and visuals shown at the organization’s trailer indicate that over half of the reports made regarding human trafficking turn out to be legitimate crimes.
“They really partner with the organization because they are the eyes and ears of the road,” Melanie said.
This is not the first accolade Carter has received in high young life. He was recognized as the Almont Middle School for the 2017-18 School year by Principal Kimberly VonHiltmayer for his ability to embrace every day with a happy heart and to make the most out of every day.
Carter takes part in horseback riding, basketball, bowling, and the 4-H rabbit club. He also enjoys singing and following the Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, and NASCAR.
Carter already has learned to operate some of the excavating equipment, and the hope is he can be part in the family business.
“We know with help getting into the equipment, that he can operate the equipment,” Melanie said. “We just want to give him every opportunity to take care of himself and have gainful employment.”