A rite of winter is returning in a couple of weeks to the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center that attracts thousands every year.
What I am referring to is the annual visit of the giant monster trucks for the two-day Monster Jam event on Friday, Jan. 31 and Saturday, Feb. 1.
I have been following monster trucks ever since I first saw them on them on TV and have always enjoyed the excitement that event creates.
One of returning drivers this year will be Randy Brown, who will be behind the wheel of fan favorite Grave Digger. This is the third time Brown has driven the monster truck icon in Charleston, and he told me by phone recently he is proud being on the Grave Digger team.
“Being a driver on the Grave Digger team comes along with a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure to perform," Brown said, "because fans expect the best from Grave Digger, and I try hard to live up to their expectations. There is a lot of pressure on us, but that’s a good thing and makes us drive hard in front of the fans.”
Brown has been a member of the Grave Digger team since 2003.
The monster truck veteran driver debuted in 2000 with his own truck, Pure Adrenaline. With time comes changes, and Brown says the biggest change he has seen is in the safety side of the sport. “The safety equipment is so much better then when I started. There have been great improvements in the head and neck restraints and the custom-made seats and how drivers are strapped in have helped prevent injuries when we are competing. Besides that, the trucks are way more powerful, and that has made driving much more fun and helps us put on a better show for the fans.”
Along with Grave Digger, other monster trucks expect to compete in Charleston include: Dragon, Just Get Er Done II, Monster Mutt Dalmatian, Raminator, Rammunition, Scooby-Doo and Wild Side.
I have had the opportunity in the past to meet several of the drivers prior to them competing and noticed that there is a lot of togetherness between the competitors. Brown is known on the circuit as one of the drivers that tries to keep things light, saying, “Absolutely, I am not one to be real serious. I love joking around with my crew and all of the other drivers at the event, just because I like to keep it fun. What we do is a job and we do take it seriously and try to do our best for the fans, but I want to have fun doing it, also.”
When he isn’t behind the wheel of his Grave Digger truck, Brown calls the Outer Banks of North Carolina home to him and his family. Participating on the Monster Jam circuit means he is away from his family a lot during the year and he told me, the travel is a challenge sometimes.
“It gets harder as my kids get older and I don’t want to miss things that they are doing," he said. "My two daughters, one is 17 and the other is 15, they have a lot going on in their life and there are things I don’t want to miss. Fortunately for me, the Grave Digger team allows me to get home as much as possible, so I don’t miss out on a whole lot of stuff. But my wife and kids really don’t know anything else, because this is what I have always done.”
The event’s schedule is one show on Friday, Jan. 31, starting at 7 p.m., and two shows on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. There is a Pit Party where fans can see the trucks up close and meet the drivers that begins at 10:30 a.m. For more event and ticket information, go to monsterjam.com.