Originally published on February 1, 2019

It was a cold, crisp day in Londonderry, Ohio on Friday, March 23, 2018. That didn’t stop truck driver Rick Popp and his brothers from piling into Rick’s Ford F-350 at 4 a.m. to visit their favorite trade show, The Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY. You see, the brothers, Rick, Nick and Mick, had the day off and they couldn’t wait to see the trucks on display at this iconic trade show. The Popps are a truck-driving family if ever there was one and they are Ford lovers, through and through.

The brothers walked the show for several hours and just as they were going to leave and take the long journey home, one of TPG’s Brand Ambassadors working the Ford Commercial Vehicles booth remarked to Rick as he walked by that he looked a little tired. “Would you like to sit and watch our game show, Tough or Not Tough? It’s just starting.” Rick and his brothers had never seen the game show but agreed that getting a load off their feet might be a good idea. “If she hadn’t of asked, we may not have sat,” Rick told me during our phone interview for this article.

A Little Background

Tough or Not Tough is a takeoff on the TV game show, Deal or No Deal. Contestants can choose cases representing various prizes and cash offers. Well, who was chosen as the contestant for the last show on the last day for a chance to win $500? You guessed it, Rick Popp. On that day, Rick chose two cases:  number eight and number 12, because those numbers represented the Little League jersey numbers of his sons when they were youngsters. But Rick had decided that if the game show host offered him around $100 instead, he would take the cash and not what was in the cases.

Rick Hits the Jackpot!

The audience was on their feet, hootin’ and hollerin’ for Rick to remain steadfast and choose what was in the cases and not any cash offer, because after all, $500 may be lurking in one of those cases. Rick thought “oh heck, I came here with nothing, I’ll go home with nothing”. He opened case #8 first. It was a Built Ford Tough hat. Then it was time to open #12. It was the winner! Tired Rick, who traveled four hours from Londenderry and was just about to go home, was the winner of $500.

Winner at Mid-America 2018 Ford

More to the Story

You knew there would be. Rick’s youngest son, whose Little League jersey was number 12 when he was a kid, had passed away three years earlier. His name was Travis and was well-known in the community as a Little League coach and philanthropist as an adult. His passing was a shock and Rick took it hard. But number 12 was with him that day. Rick said, “I felt my son was there, egging me on to stick with case 12”. When Rick told our team this touching story, no one had a dry eye and we were all moved beyond words. Rick’s experience in the Ford booth meant more than just trucks and flatbeds and crowds. It was a reminder that when you meet people face-to-face and conversations ensue, you may find that people have quite a story to tell – that their years of living and experiences can be moving, memorable and life-changing. Rick and his lost son Travis had that effect on our team.

These days, Rick is back to coaching Little League himself, so that Travis’s boy can know his grandfather more.

Large crowds Mid-America Ford

Moral of the Story

So yes, we live in a digital world. It’s a necessity and a curse, I suppose. And even though trade shows are primarily where business gets done, sometimes they offer something more. Over the years, people have visited our team at Ford events bringing us gifts or telling family tales and showing off pictures of their beloved Ford trucks. In a world of devices and statistics and technology, the enduring appeal of trade shows is they are, and will always be, a sea of humanity.

C.C. Carr, TPG Jill of all Trades and Contributing Writer

Related: Got Game? Put the Show in Trade Show

The Mid-America Trucking Show