Greg Rinaldi has always had a particular appreciation for cars, but it wasn’t until his close friend was taken for a ride that he gained an interest in trucks.
Rinaldi organized his first truck show more than two decades ago at age 17 in his hometown of Toms River, New Jersey, after his friend Joe Cannella’s repeated losses in competitive truck shows. At the time, the high schoolers were part of the minority as far as monster trucks were concerned. Interest in truck shows was minimal but rising, which meant that event judges still had much to learn.
“Judges had no idea how to judge the show. They might know cars, like hot rods or muscle cars, but at that time — we’re talking the 1990s — trucks were a whole other story,” Rinaldi, 44, says. “Take for instance a motor change. That’s a lot of work, but it didn’t earn the scores it should.”
After the success of his first truck show, which attracted 5,000-plus people to his father’s Toms River job lot and which he purposefully hired truck experts to judge, Rinaldi made a career of producing these events in the tristate area.
On Sunday, Sept. 25, he hosts the Long Island Truck Jam at Riverhead Raceway, marking his company’s first stop in the area. The more than 200 entrants will be judged by the undercarriage, exterior, interior and engines of their vehicles.
GOOD VIBES ONLY
Patrons of his truck shows are drawn as much by the range of rides — which on Sunday will include show trucks, Jeeps, mega trucks, low riders and rock crawlers — as they are by the ambience at the event, Rinaldi says.
“People don’t come for the trophies,” Rinaldi says. “They come out to be around other truck people.”
The truck shows typically attract anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 people. Even “daily drivers” — people with tricked-out trucks they use regularly and not just for show — will be in attendance.
Cannella, meanwhile, never lost his love for trucks and now manages Rinaldi’s shows.
“Trucks are universal. They’re no longer just two-door vehicles,” Rinaldi says. “You have four-wheelers, monster trucks for racing. You can go off road with them or drive them every day.”
Some trucks in Sunday’s show will reflect as much as $30,000 to $40,000 worth of enhancements. About 80 percent will hail from Long Island and a sprinkling from Connecticut, New Jersey and other parts of New York. Some trucks are also “coming out of retirement” just for the show, Rinaldi says.
For added amusement, the Long Island Truck Jam will feature a burnout and tug-of-war contest involving the vehicles as well as a monster truck freestyle where cars are crushed one at a time. People who sign up for the show have the opportunity to take their truck for a lap around the track.
Long Island Truck Jam
WHEN | WHERE Noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at Riverhead Raceway, 1797 Old Country Rd.
ADMISSION $30 ($25 advance), $10 ages 6-12; $30 show truck entry includes driver and passenger.