Trucks & Tradition: Chillicothe Celebrates Kenworth

Chillicothe's annual Kenworth Truck Parade roars with pride, honoring 50 years of the iconic American truck brand's local plant and its deep roots in the Ohio community.

Trucks & Tradition: Chillicothe Celebrates Kenworth
Families line the street in Chillicothe, Ohio to watch Kenworth Chillicothe's 50th Anniversary parade. Credit: Kenworth

By Bianca Prieto, Editor of The Inside Lane

On a recent Saturday evening in Chillicothe, Ohio, a deep rumble vibrates along Water Street. Crowds line the sidewalks, anticipation building as the unmistakable hum of powerful engines draws near.

It’s not just any night - it's the annual Kenworth Truck Parade, and the townspeople are eager to witness these majestic machines glide down the street. For many, the parade is personal - they’ve lived near, worked at or been impacted in some way by the plant which opened its doors just north of their town in 1974.

In the passenger seat of the parade’s lead vehicle, a 1923 Kenworth, parade Grand Marshall Dan Murphy waves to the crowd.

“The Kenworth Truck Parade has become a beloved June tradition in Ross County, made even more meaningful this year with the opportunity to celebrate 50 years of producing The World’s Best Trucks in Chillicothe,” said Jack Schmitt, Kenworth Chillicothe assistant plant manager.

“We are grateful to this incredible community and the drivers who travel from near and far to make this special event so successful year after year.”

Parade Grand Marshal Dan Marshall, a 50-year employee of the Chillicothe plant, rode in a 1923 Kenworth. Credit: Kenworth

Kenworth's trucking history

The story of Kenworth in America is intertwined with the history of trucking itself.

From its first heavy-duty truck built for loggers in the Pacific Northwest to the Wreckers that aided the U.S. military during WWII, the Kenworth trucks have played a vital role in our nation's growth since the company was founded in 1923.

Modern-day trucking was influenced greatly by Kenworth trucks - which introduced the first diesel engine in the 1930s and a raised roof sleeper in the 1970s bringing greater comfort to drivers. The company continues to innovate with electric vehicles and zero emissions.

But Kenworth's story isn't just about steel and horsepower.

It's about people like Murphy who recently retired after a remarkable 50-year career at the Kenworth plant in Chillicothe. He started as a production specialist in 1974, days after the plant opened its doors.

Leading the recent 50th-anniversary parade in a vintage 1923 Kenworth alongside a procession of classic models and newer models, Murphy embodied the legacy of Kenworth in Chillicothe.

The trucks ambled down Chillicothe’s main thoroughfare, lights on, a few trucks blew their horns which were retrofitted to play a melody in place of its bellowing warning signal. Families lined the streets to watch as part of their own history drove past.

The Chillicothe plant is more than just an assembly line. It's a testament to American manufacturing prowess. Advanced robotics and a state-of-the-art paint facility ensure the quality and efficiency that define Kenworth trucks.

But the human touch remains vital.

1946 Kenworth Truck is showcased in the June parade. Credit: Kenworth

An opportunity to give back

The plant's celebration wasn't just about showcasing trucks; it was about giving back to the community.

During the parade, Kenworth employees and United Way of Ross volunteers walked the parade route to sell 50/50 raffle tickets to benefit the United Way. The plant also raised money for the non-profit organization through sponsorships of the VIP area along the truck parade route.

Nearly $38,000 was donated to the United Way of Ross County through this effort, according to the trucking company.

A Kenworth T680 high-roof sleeper passes in front of Chillicothe's historic Majestic Theater. Credit: Kenworth

As trucking looks toward the future - with autonomous vehicles and alternative fuels on the horizon - Kenworth remains at the forefront, actively developing these technologies.

Yet, the core values remain: building reliable, efficient trucks, and supporting the communities that build them.

So, this holiday weekend, as you see a Kenworth truck, or any other 18-wheeler thunder by, remember the human stories behind the machine.

Remember the dedication of people like Murphy and the Chillicothe plant, a vital part of the American road's beating heart.

How does your company participate in community events? Send an email to the editor at

Have a question or comment about this article? Email Bianca Prieto at

Not yet a subscriber to The Inside Lane newsletter? Join here for free.