ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
Suffice it to say “Bigfoot” made a big impact at the two-day sales promotion event at Rod’s Tire & Service in Hillsboro last Tuesday and Wednesday.
Even frigid temperatures couldn’t chill the enthusiasm of the busloads of children from Hillsboro’s elementary and middle schools who came out to see a real “monster truck” up close and personal.
“I don’t know whether we really had any expectations, but I was just overwhelmed by the response,” said store owner Rod Koons. “I never really thought the young kids in town would be so amazed by that.
“When you heard kids say, ‘Man, that was awesome,’ just repeatedly from every age group, it’s just-wow.”
The mere sight of Bigfoot’s 10-foot height and elevated body suspended above four 66-inch by 43-inch by 25-inch Firestone flotation tires was impressive.
But once professional driver Jerry Ralston fired up the thunderous 572-cubic-inch Ford fueled with methanol, the kids’ faces simply lit up. Some covered their ears with gloved hands, but almost all were smiling ear to ear with teeth that almost rattled from the roar.
“It seemed to me that the younger the kids were, the more excited the kids were,” Koons said. “With the kindergartners, maybe there was still a level of fear. But once you got from first grade on, those kids were stoked.”
With limits, that is.
“What was kind of funny was that once you got into the older girls, like sixth- and seventh- and eighth-grade girls, the interest started to wane,” Koons said.
“It was a very good study in the psychology of young men and women to see what people get excited about.”
Rod’s Tire was able to bring Bigfoot to Hillsboro through its position as an authorized Firestone dealer. Both Firestone and Ford are major sponsors of Bigfoot 4×4 Inc., the independent company based in Hazelwood, Mo., that custom builds the huge vehicles.
“I knew Don (of Don’s Tire & Service in Abilene) had it set up to be in Abilene on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” Koons said. “I thought, we aren’t going to have many times like this when this is going to work out because (the Bigfoot team is) going all the time.”
The promotion began in Hillsboro on Tuesday with an invitation to the public to eat free pancakes. Koons estimated almost 500 people came despite the frigid weather.
President of the school board, Koons invited the principals at the elementary and middle schools to bring students out for a quick field trip.
Koons said he was mostly interested in providing an entertaining event for the kids. He didn’t realize the idea would have promotional benefits for his business, too.
“What really got me was the kindergartners who came out on Tuesday morning-I don’t know how many came back with their parents in the afternoon.
“I know what happened,” he added. “They went home and pleaded, ‘Mom you’ve got to come see this.’ Finally, the parents just said OK. Here the kid brought the parent back into our store.
“I don’t know how many people came who I’ve never seen in our store before. I guess what I forgot is one of the first rules in Marketing 101: If you get the kids to come, you’ll probably get their parents also.
“I was very pleased with that part of our promotion. I don’t if it caused anybody to come and buy anything, but it sure made them leave here with a good feeling about our business.
“That’s what we need to be about anyway. Buying and selling will happen in time.”