By Lesley Dixon, USA Rice
Michael Fruge wasn't expecting the call when he and his wife, Sarah, were stuck in traffic in Metairie, Louisiana. It was December 7, the last day of the 2018 Outlook Conference, and they were on their way to watch the Louisiana state high school football championship game in New Orleans after leaving San Diego, the site of this year's conference, early.
When he realized he was on speakerphone with an auditorium full of his colleagues and friends in the rice industry, Fruge was at a loss for words.
"I think all I said was 'wow,'" Fruge said, laughing as he remembered the moment he realized he had won the Ford F-150 in the Think Rice truck raffle. "I wish I'd had something better to say than I did. I was just shocked. It was exciting."
After a historic tour of the continental United States and its debut at the Outlook Conference, the Think Rice truck has finally made its way to its forever home in Louisiana, where Fruge will keep it as his personal vehicle and, of course, put it to good use.
"The only vehicle I have right now is a Horizon Ag company truck, so I'm going to hold on to the Think Rice truck and use it on the farm."
Fruge will remove the Think Rice graphic wrap eventually, but for now he's happy to keep the truck as is. In the meantime, it's certainly a conversation starter.
"We had a big Christmas party at our house so I parked it out in the yard, and when people drove up their response was: 'what the heck is that?'"
The Think Rice design will continue to garner attention as the truck makes appearances at upcoming rice industry events. It's slated to appear tomorrow evening, Wednesday, January 9, at the Louisiana Rice Council and Louisiana Rice Growers Association joint meeting in Jennings.
In addition to the truck, Fruge received a suite of six rice cookers from Aroma as part of the raffle prize in sizes from 3 to 20 cups, so he'll be well prepared to cook as much rice as he can handle in the new year.
While the #RideWithRice crew will miss the Think Rice truck they're thrilled that it's gone to such a good home and excited to see it begin its civilian life. It was an amazing experience to hand out 4,000 pounds of free rice and 3,000 rice cookers across the country, engage with the public at events, donate to food banks, and spread the word about U.S.-grown rice in such a unique way.
"It was really cool just having the opportunity to participate in this raffle," said Fruge. "I really appreciate everything y'all do for us as rice farmers."
After getting the news that they won the truck, Michael and Sarah brought their good luck to that football game, where Eunice High School (Sarah's alma mater) won the championship, rounding out a day of big wins for the Fruges.