The 20th anniversary of the Lights On The Hill Memorial Convoy was a massive tribute to the people who keep Australia’s wheels turning while paying respect to those no longer with us. Warren Aitken snapped up the action from the colourful but bittersweet weekend in south-east Queensland.
October was my month this year. Forget Christmas, forget Easter, and don’t even look at my ever-increasing birthdays in March. October is my month!
Obviously, there are the standard events that make October my favourite month, from the Bathurst 1000 to the NRL Grand Final.
If you are that way inclined there is also the AFL Grand Final. Then you’ve also had the Cricket World Cup and the Rugby World Cup.
Add in the World Poutine Eating Champs in Canada and the Human Towers Competition held near Barcelona. I mean how can you not be a fan of October?
Then of course we have the most important event in every October, the annual Lights On The Hill weekend in south-east Queensland.
This year’s event, which actually kicked off on September 30 on the first day of the long weekend, also saw the team celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Here is the thing about the Lights On The Hill weekend though.
It isn’t just a convoy anymore. After 20 years of growth, 20 years of driver support and 20 years of increasing public support, this event has grown from a few trucks paying tribute to fallen fellow drivers to a massive memorial weekend.
This year’s event was not just the 20th anniversary, it was also one of the event’s best-ever turnouts.
When I speak of the success of the 2023 event, I don’t want to focus just on the numbers involved. Whichever way you look at it, having nearly 700 trucks inside the Gatton Showgrounds is a huge statistical success.
I also don’t want to just focus on the amazing names that were putting on a show for the huge crowd on Saturday. Country rock band The Road Hammers from Canada, plus The Open Season Band, Natalie Pearson and the amazing Hayley Jenson – that lady can sing!
Those guys just tore the roof off the place, metaphorically speaking. Obviously it was an outdoor concert so there was no roof. But if there was, it would have been torn off.
What I consider the barometer of success for this year’s show was the turnout of the general public from both ends of the convoy.
For those who have been living under a rock and aren’t aware of how the Lights On the Hill convoy works, there are actually two convoys. One leaves from Brown & Hurley’s Toowoomba branch and another leaves from Carole Park in Brisbane.
The Toowoomba convoy comprised of nearly 200 trucks coming down garden city’s bypass, tooting and hollering all the way.
The Brisbane convoy took up the remaining 500-odd trucks and snaked its way out of the Carole Park industrial estate, down the Ipswich Motorway and out onto the Warrego Highway.
This year I made a concerted effort to get to both ends of the convoy and was absolutely blown away by the number of people filling in every possible vantage point along the convoy route, including the streets around the starting points of the convoys and the arrival route into Gatton.
There were hundreds of people parked up and waving like mad all along the highway as well. It was an incredible show of support.
People had their gazebos out, eskies were open and deck chairs were in abundance. There were parents and kids from all walks of life frantically pulling the airhorn arm pump and Australian flags of all sizes being waved in support.
As popular and supported as this event is, it is still a memorial weekend and remains a difficult time for all those involved.
Whether they are carrying a loved one’s banner on the front of a truck or whether they are seeing a loved one’s name added to the wall on Sunday’s memorial service at Lake Apex Park in Gatton. It is a humbling time for all involved.
Many of those I spoke to however admit that they truly enjoy the Lights On The Hill convoy as they get to celebrate some amazing people and, most importantly, they get to remember and memorialise them.
For that, they also thank the organisers. Many also pointed out how amazed at the show of support from the general public with several saying ‘it’s often a thankless industry but seeing that kind of support was uplifting’.
Big congratulations need to go to the Lights On The Hill team and the countless volunteers who once again did an amazing job.
From the registration at the convoy assembly points to those who spoke so eloquently and held it together so well at the memorial on Sunday, and the volunteers who somehow managed to successfully park nearly 700 trucks and others who kept the crowds flowing freely through the turnstiles – a big congratulations!
That’s has been enough waffle – enjoy the photos and let’s start getting the trucks ready for the 2024 Light on the Hill Convoy.