S.D. Ireland’s truck number 6 sits in the third bay of the garage on Grove Street in South Burlington, being prepped for its next outing. Unlike the concrete trucks in the first and second bays, number 6 won’t be delivering concrete for sidewalks, driveways, foundations, footings or bridges anytime soon. Its drum has been washed out, its hopper removed, its water tank taken off… and starting this week, thousands of little yellow and white lights are being be taped on. From this day forward, well, at least for the next month or so, number 6 will have a new purpose: to deliver smiles of surprise and delight to pedestrians, motorists, anyone from Burlington to Bennington and back again who lays eyes on the 365 horse power industrial size sleigh.
Kim Ireland, the wife of Scott David Ireland, recently cleaned out Lowe’s and the Christmas store, purchasing 15,000 gold lights and 33,000 white ones respectively. Her recent purchases are stacked in a heap beside number 6. Nearby there are there are reels, the kind cable is usually wound on, where last year’s strands are wound in tidy spools. The back corner of the bay is strewn with more strands, more coils of lights and last year’s dud bulbs litter the floor like peanut shells. Smiles of delight, it turns out, are hard work and rigorous logistics.
As the men in the first and second bays negotiate the drop off sites and cubic yards of concrete slated for delivery, Kim, over by number 6 tells me that this project is in its eighth year. The wonder that this concrete mixer truck first generated when it debuted in 2005 –decked out in thousands of lights cruising the streets and state highways of Vermont— has given way to expectation, “People get upset if it isn’t around,” Kim tells me.
She and her husband were on a plane to Washington, D.C. when, perhaps inspired by the twinkling houses beyond the plane’s window, he proposed decking the truck with boughs of um, electric lights. A year later Kim walked into Creative Habitat to purchase six rolls of clear duct tape and 25,000 lights. “Just tell us next time your coming,” the flustered staff told her.
By the time I showed up at the garage to check on the light- covering process, number 6’s hood has been covered and a worker was gamely starting on the passenger side door, arranging and taping the lights in back and forth pattern that covered everything, even the offshoot stem of the side mirror. When number 6 is ready to go, the truck’s generator will run most of the lights as its empty barrel spins and S.D. Ireland drivers will take turns parading the lit up truck through November and December’s darkest days.
“Oh there it is!” you can hear a passenger exclaim in one of the numerous You Tube videos that truck number six has inspired. In one such video, the camera simply follows the truck, lit up in its merry glory as it dashes down the interstate and puts on its turn signal, which adds one more light to the brilliant spectacle. Then the camera records the truck’s lights as they become a twinkly, fading glow, as number 6 veers off in to the night.