John Deere tractor rumbled onto Broadway and into the chaos.
On a busy Friday night in downtown Nashville, it chugged along at 5 miles per hour, pulling a canopied trailer with flashing lights and a bunch of friends from Denver who were drinking and dancing to Shania Twain.
There was nothing particularly noticeable about it. A series of open-air party buses were passed by the Big Green Tractor as it continued on its way. It inched up next to a car next to which a group of women were hanging over the railing while wearing tank tops that read “Let’s Get Nashty!”
Less than a Mile had been Covered by the Tractor.
Ronee Heatherly, who worked as a safety monitor, bartender, DJ, photographer, tour guide, and taunter of the ride-share drivers who were blocking the Big Green Tractor’s path, remarked, “It’s the Wild West out here.” While glaring at them, she blasted “Move” by Ludacris.
Nashville’s status as a getaway and bachelorette trip destination has led to the proliferation of party vehicles, which offer tourists a chance to party in style and provide a platform from which to take in the sights of the city. But there is a rising sentiment that things have gotten out of hand, and not just among people and local politicians but also among some in the so-called transportainment business.
Steve Haruch, a journalist and the book’s editor, remarked, “We built the monster, and now we can’t manage the monster.” “The premise of every fright flick.”
Nashville’s streets are home to an eclectic collection of vehicles, including but not limited to a hot tub truck, a bus full of electric massage chairs, a Ford pickup converted into a “party barge” with waves painted on the side and “Ship Faced” stamped on the tailgate, retired military vehicles, a purple bus full of drag performers, an old school bus named Bev, and another old bus named Bertha.
The number of businesses in the city that use vehicles on weekends is estimated at 40. Twenty have debuted just in the last six months.
Concerns regarding security, noise, and congestion have been raised in response to the growing number of vehicles on the road and the accompanying increase in irate motorists. But the worry also points to a more fundamental issue: the fear that Nashville’s spirit may be lost as a result of the city’s meteoric rise to prominence in recent years.
Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, expressed concern that the city was losing its “sense of who we are, what built our success,” describing a Nashville that has been known for generations as the capital of country music, with a laid-back vibe and access to exceptional live music any day of the year, but now must coexist with something much more decadent.
He assured them that their time spent in this establishment would be both memorable and exciting. There’s nothing special about drinking 12 White Claws at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when it’s 95 degrees outside.
A 22-year-old guy fell off a party bus this summer, and the vehicle ran over his legs, drawing attention to the industry’s lack of safety rules. There was a petition going around saying that people were sick from being in the cars too much. The Metropolitan Council of Nashville is now debating a plan to regulate the sector by prohibiting alcoholic beverages, mandating training, permits, and inspections, and defining specific locations where vehicles are permitted to operate.
The Escalation in Vehicle Numbers Must Indicate Something, Though.
The need is already present. Birthday parties, retirement celebrations, and even a church that wanted to distribute Bibles at a party rented them. However, transportainment is more often connected with the partying side of the city that gave NashVegas its moniker, as it brings in tourists for journeys that may end up being unforgettable or completely forgotten.
Some professionals in the field argue that a small number of disruptive customers bring down the reputation of respectable companies when most customers behave themselves and nobody gets hurt.
Rules are strictly enforced at Hell on Wheels, a corporation that uses modified military freight vehicles. Indecent lyrics are not permitted. There will be no blow up penises, a standard at stag dos, here. By 10:30 p.m., the last ride will have left.
Firm co-owner Nicholas Lyon has remarked, “It’s not necessarily about being loud and ludicrous on Broadway.” The company takes its name from a U.S. Army tank division.
He continued by saying that party bus passengers contributed to Nashville’s prosperity and that the city would always be a lively place. Mr. Lyon, speaking of downtown tourism, remarked, “Those ‘woo’ gals are essentially the heartbeat of our business.” People who want to live in a more peaceful version of Mayberry can consider Brentwood or Franklin.
(Brentwood and Franklin are Nashville suburbs where, interestingly, last year people phoned police with noise and indecent exposure complaints after party cars displaced by the city’s temporary coronavirus limits on meeting venues travelled farther out.)
Mr. Lyon Admitted That Hhe Supports Rules And Regulations Only Grudgingly.
He’s worried that excessive regulation would kill off small firms like the one he launched three years ago.
However, the industry’s lack of regulation worries him just as much. Practically anyone who wants to and has access to a decommissioned school bus can participate. (Some have been listed on Nashville’s Craigslist for as cheap as $5,800.)
People in the business and city transportation officials have indicated that most of the cars are not regulated by the local government, and that there are no safety rules or insurance laws expressly tied to transportainment.
Mr. Lyon Stated, “We Need these Bad Apples Out of Here.”
It is now conceivable, on a weekday afternoon, to witness two roofless vintage buses, a converted pink SUV, and a farm tractor and trailer at a single crossing, since the city’s pandemic restrictions were lifted in the spring.
Lower Broadway is the heart of Nashville’s tourist industry, a kind of Tennessee version of Times Square filled with neon signs, iconic dive bars, and huge multi-story establishments associated with famous musicians (like Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk & Rock N’ Roll Steakhouse) that draw in millions of visitors each year.
A recent evening’s excursion on the Big Green Tractor began a few blocks from Broadway, in the alley behind a booze store where passengers could fill up.
After everyone had boarded, Ms. Heatherly went over the regulations and warned that if any of them were broken, the tractor would be stopped, the passengers would be forced to off, and Ms. Heatherly would ride away.
Around the perimeter of the trailer, she indicated, is a metal railing. She quickly moved on to the next rule: “My husband used to say, this is for your safety, not your booty,” she remarked. “If you puke on this waggon, it will cost you some money.”
One of the Passengers Yelled, “Nobody Throw Up!”
After a day of rain, the clouds cleared and the night sky was clear and starry. The Denver women danced and swayed as Ms. Heatherly spun country favourites and party staples such as “Fancy Like” by Walker Hayes, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard, and “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” by Big and Rich. She skipped ahead to the best portion of the Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody” by using the fast-forward button.
This tractor didn’t spend much time on Broadway. The busiest part of the road was closed to traffic, forcing the driver to navigate a torturous maze of one-way streets, pedestrians, idling Ubers, elevated trucks, and 90-degree turns.
Cole Canada, The Driver, Seemed Unfazed.
“My heart breaks for me every time I see Cole up there driving,” Ms. Heatherly said. “My husband should be up there.” When her husband Rickie passed away in June, it was the end of a 42-year marriage. She claimed that Mr. Heatherly had founded the company and was a skilled driver who could get the waggon into places where others would have given up.
Standing on the wagon’s wooden bench was Cheree Jubin, whose upcoming fall wedding served as the trip’s impetus. As her pals applauded, she declared, “Everyone needs to raise their glass to Rickie!”
Ms. Jubin proclaimed, “I’ve truly loved it” when asked to describe the evening. I was pleasantly surprised by how stunning it was.
After driving across the Cumberland River, the tractor pulled into a truck stop to use the facilities. After that, it wound its way around the Tennessee Titans’ stadium to find the best vantage point for Ms. Heatherly to snap the group portrait. The women clustered close, the neon of Broadway and the city skyline looming over them, their silhouettes mirrored in the river.
The peace, however, didn’t last long. A school bus without a roof and blaring speakers waited nearby, its students anxious to replicate the scene.