The Highway 41 Toy Convoy is set to make its 22nd annual run today, Sunday, Nov. 4.
The convoy will roll from Manchester to Tullahoma at 1 p.m., rain or shine. This is one of the longest convoys of its kind to make its way through Coffee County, with hundreds of vehicles in all shapes, sizes and colors.
It started in 1997 with a motorcycle group. The group would gather toys for foster children to help give them a meaningful Christmas. As the years passed, the effort grew. By year three, the convoy had tripled in size. Then, the motorcycle group folded, leaving the fate of the convoy up in the air.
Katy Ishee, a longtime substitute teacher in the local school systems, decided that the effort needed to carry on. As a substitute teacher, she had seen kids throughout the school system whose families didn’t have the means to fashion a merry Christmas. Determined to keep the convoy rolling, she decided to reach out to local businesses and the friends of the convoy to see if they could help.
Ishee remembers asking her students one holiday season to write a story about what the perfect Christmas would look like to them.
“One student wrote me a six-page paper explaining that in his perfect Christmas there would be peace in his home,” remembers Ishee. “It absolutely broke my heart and I knew I had to keep the convoy going for the kids who needed it most.”
With the help of businesses and friends of the cause, the convoy has continued to roll. It is now the longest-running event of its type in Tullahoma. It has become the cruise for a cause not just for Tullahoma, but for other counties as well.
Each vehicle that joins the convoy must abide by one simple rule: the vehicle must contain one new, unopened toy.
The convoy will follow the original route – starting at the Raider Academy in Manchester and continuing down Highway 55 to Jackson Street in Tullahoma. Once the convoy reaches North Jackson Street, it will turn onto Atlantic Street, running behind the old Kmart building and south again to end in front of London’s Restaurant and Bar.
In years past, the line of vehicles has been known to be up to 6 miles long. This year, some are traveling up to 600 miles to participate. Organizers advise travelers to use caution when driving through town Sunday because some roads will be closed as the convoy makes its way through.
Once the convoy reaches its final destination, toys will be collected and loaded into a truck furnished by Rodney’s Paint and Body of Tullahoma. From there, the toys will be taken to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department where they will then be divided for distribution in Coffee and Bedford counties. The Manchester Police Department, the Tullahoma Fire Department and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department then distribute the toys in their respective areas.
As the toys are being loaded in downtown Tullahoma Sunday afternoon, Duane Allman tribute band Skydog will provide musical entertainment. Gillianne Leverette will sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Throughout the convoy, Ishee said, spectators can expect to see trucks, bikes, Jeeps, rat rods, hot rods and big rigs.
“The Highway 41 Toy Convoy has helped thousands of children over the past two decades,” said Ishee. “People who were helped as kids now bring their kids to participate in the convoy. They continue to give back because it impacted their lives so heavily as children. This is why I love keeping the convoy going. It’s so incredible to see the community pull together and if it wasn’t for them and the small businesses who support us, none of this would be possible.”
Anyone who wants to participate in the convoy should register at Raider Academy, 865 McMinnville Highway in Manchester and begin lining up at 11 a.m. There is no need to preregister.
The convoy begin its route at 1 p.m. with a police escort.
All participants will have a chance to win door prizes donated by local businesses and trophies will be given to the best decorated vehicles.
The entry fee is $10 per vehicle, but if three or more kids are present, it’s free. Entrants are encouraged to bring candy to throw to spectators.
For more information, call Katy Ishee at 931-857-3643.
Faith Few can be reached via email at email@example.com.