By John Matras
The way people were lined up along the chain-link fence, backs to one of the glittery country fair midways as they watched pickup trucks negotiate obstacles, you might think they were watching a stunt show or a scaled-down monster truck show.
But they were not.
They were watching a promotion for Ram pickups at the recent Bloomsburg Fair, where Ram was giving demonstration rides of the Ram 1500 over a dirt track in an open field. The Bloomsburg Fair, located in its namesake town in central Pennsylvania, is the largest agricultural fair in the state and one of the largest in the East, complete with horse pulls and livestock judging, plus carnival games and rides, live music and ethnic food. It's farm country, and it's pickup country.
So although the population numbers may not match those of the Baltimore or Washington, D.C., metropolitan areas, the pickup truck demographics of the region swamp those of the major urban centers. Ram's demo drive was a natural for the area, said Ram's Jerry Hunter, who brought the event to the fair for the first time this year.
The point was to show the off-road bona fides of a Ram 1500 pickup. More than a show for the fence clingers, the ride-alongs were free — something that fairgoers accustomed to paying for everything found hard to believe.
The exhibition rides, all in crew cabs, included a demonstration of articulation, with the trucks driving through a series of alternating pits that drop one corner while the opposite corner rises off the ground.
That was followed by a hillside of death that tipped the trucks 30 degrees from horizontal without the trucks tipping over, a thrill for the ride-alongs. Next up was a stop on a steep upslope to show off the hill-holder feature, and then the Ram waded through a rocker-panel-deep pool, with the drivers making sure to mention the triple door seals keep the carpet dry.
Tight S-turns displayed the tight turning radius of the Ram 1500 crew cab, and alternating logs demonstrated the pickup's prowess in crawling in 4-Low.
People invariably left the Ram demo grinning. Their favorite part? Almost to a person, it was the 30-degree side slope. People didn't know a pickup could do that, and now we have visions of teenagers doing that with Dad's truck. Kids: Don't try that at home.
One older guy did say what he liked best was the comfortable ride and the quality interior. Yeah, sure, sir, but what about that side slope?
With weather cooperating during this year's Bloomsburg Fair, some 4,000 people took the Ram thrill ride and it looked like another 4,000 were turned away.
And that's not counting the people behind the fence. So for Hunter, that meant mission accomplished.