Lightning McQueen, Mater to star in Day Parade

Real life versions of Lightning McQueen and Mater, popular characters from the animated Pixar movie Cars, will be the honorary grand marshals for the Christmas on the River Day Parade. The vehicles were built by Simmons Wrecker Service in Meridian, Miss.

While The Alabama Gang will serve as the grand marshals for this year’s Christmas on the River Day Parade, attending children will get an extra special treat as Mater and Lightning McQueen have been named honorary grand marshals.

“I think it adds a tremendous amount because it fits in so well with the official grand marshals being the Alabama Gang, but it brings the children’s aspect,” Diane Brooker, chair of the parade, said of the real life replicas of the popular characters from the Pixar movie Cars.. “And it gives the small children something to relate to within the theme of racing.”

The characters will be provided by Simmons Wrecker Service of Meridian, Miss. and were built for the purpose of parade participation.

“It was about two or three years ago. We were trying to do a Christmas float for a little town, Marion, and Meridian. My wife was the one that came up with the idea,” Ricky Simmons, owner of Simmons Wrecker Service, said of the tow truck that ultimately became known as Mater. “It was an old wrecker that we had that had been in the business since the 60s. We were going to restore it and we decided to do that to it. It has been a big hit. There are people stopping everyday looking at it.”

The truck itself is one Simmons said he remembers riding in with his father – who built the original vehicle himself – decades ago as they went on calls for the family-owned company that has been in business since 1946.

“It really didn’t take long. The truck fit the character very well. We got it ready in a week, just about, for the parade. We’ve done some work on it since then,” Simmons said. “It is a little bigger truck than what Mater actually is, but it is real close to it.”

Brooker said parade organizers had been seeking something to incorporate into the parade that would be recognizable for children when she and her husband, Brian, happened across the vehicles on display at Simmons Wrecker in Meridian.

Simmons proved eager to help out with the effort when he agreed to place the vehicles in the annual event. Brooker said Lightning McQueen and Mater are a perfect fit for this year’s NASCAR theme.

“They go along with the theme of NASCAR and racing with the Alabama Gang being the grand marshals,” Brooker said of the vehicles, which will not be available for public appearance but will ride in the parade.

The Alabama Gang is a group of retired NASCAR drivers consisting of Donnie Allison, Red Farmer and Bobby Allison.

Those seeking more information on the Mater and Lightning McQueen vehicles can visit