In Moscow, Idaho, residents eagerly look forward to the Light Up the Season Parade — a beloved annual tradition where local schools, businesses and community organizations march down Main Street in fun, festive and hand-designed holiday floats.
Brittany Williams, GM of U-Haul® Storage of Moscow, has always enjoyed watching the parade with her family. Recently, though, she had an idea: Why shouldn’t U-Haul play a part in it?
“I felt like the city of Moscow should know that their local U-Haul store is more than a place to share a truck or a self-storage room,” Williams said. “U-Haul Company is a vital part of the community, and we support many important causes — including food, housing and veterans support — that change people’s lives every day. I wanted to let the whole community know how amazing Team U-Haul is.”
With these goals in mind, Williams immediately reached out to Jess Brooks, president of U-Haul Company of Inland Northwest. Brooks approved Williams’ plan to build, enter and display a parade float.
“When Brittany asked me if she and the rest of her team could participate in the parade, her enthusiasm and holiday cheer were just infectious,” Brooks said. “I told her to go for it, and that I would love to help her out if needed. I couldn’t wait to see what her team would come up with.”
Creating a “U-Tank”
Williams’ team began brainstorming what their float would look like. They knew they wanted to utilize trucks and trailers to pay homage to U-Haul Company’s 75-plus years of community service.
“One of the float categories at the parade was ‘Best Military Entry,’” Williams said. “As a company that supports and honors veterans, we knew that doing something in that category would be perfect! Then we thought, ‘Why not turn a U-Haul trailer into our very own DIY military tank … and tow it behind a U-Haul pickup truck?’ That way, we can use our parade entry to honor veterans and teach people about the Company’s history. It’s a win-win!”
Williams, her husband, Matthew, and U-Haul customer service representatives Makenzie Broxmeyer and Rory Rinkevage quickly set about transforming a 6×12 open trailer into a replica of a U.S. Army tank. They used several leftover materials from the U-Haul store. These included U-Haul Dish Barrel® Boxes, zip ties and tubes that had been used to hold the store’s posters. Within less than two weeks, the awe-inspiring “U-Tank” was born.
“We made sure to include some unique touches on the tank, to really make it stand out,” Williams said. “For example, we stenciled the words ‘self’ and ‘moving’ in big black letters on the cannon. We made sure to add an authentic-looking ‘U-Tank’ VIN. Most importantly, we stenciled ‘in honor of’ on one side of the tank above the names of three local military members who recently passed away. We knew that no military float would be complete without memorializing heroes who have fought and died for us.”
Shining brightly on parade day
As the parade began, hundreds of people gathered on the snowy streets of downtown Moscow. The team marched alongside the University of Idaho ROTC — which also walked with the float — and waved at the crowd. During the parade, the team made time to talk with onlookers about U-Haul Company’s history of veterans support.
“Many people didn’t know about the national veterans’ organizations that U-Haul has partnered with. Or that U-Haul was co-founded by a World War II Navy veteran,” Williams said. “I think that by telling people about who we are and how we strive to give back, it gives them a greater appreciation for what we do.”
Not only did the Moscow team educate the community, but the team enjoyed a bonding experience it will never forget.
“When Team Members take the time to participate in community-focused events like these, you really learn a lot about them as people,” Williams said. “Sometimes, we’re all so busy during the regular workday with ‘Making Moving Easier’ for customers. We don’t get a chance to come together and bond as colleagues. Now, we all know, trust and genuinely enjoy each other even more. That helps us to perform at a higher level every day.”
Brooks added: “As Brittany mentioned, participating in this parade was an invaluable opportunity to teach people about aspects of U-Haul that they didn’t already know, and to help Brittany and her team grow closer together. If I could add anything, it would be that U-Haul just wants to help improve people’s lives. During this stressful, chaotic and often difficult time of year, it can mean so much for people to see companies like U-Haul coming together and spending the holidays with them. It’s definitely something that I will never forget.”
Lastly, to learn more about U-Haul Company’s commitment to supporting veterans and members of the military, visit uhaul.com/about/veterans.