Coming Soon to a Snowy Road in Minnesota: 'Plowy McPlowFace'

A snowplow clears the freeway during a snowstorm in Minneapolis on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010.

A snowplow clears the freeway during a snowstorm in Minneapolis on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. Associated Press

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Plowy McPlowFace was the runaway winner in an online contest to name eight Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplows.

Next time it snows in Minnesota, residents might spot Plowy McPlowFace, Plow Bunyan and Snowbi Wan Kenobi on the streets for clean-up duty.

The monikers are among the winners of the state Department of Transportation’s “Name a Snowplow” contest, which invited residents to submit fun and creative names for eight plows—one in each of Minnesota’s maintenance districts

The competition was inspired by Scotland, where every snowplow—or “gritter,” as the locals call them—has a name and can be tracked in real-time using an online map. An article about the country’s latest fleet names went viral online in December, prompting Minnesotans to wonder why their state’s plows had, thus far, remained anonymous.

“We got an onslaught of folks saying ‘Couldn’t we name our snowplows?’ And we decided, yes, we could,” said Jake Loesch, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

The naming contest drew more than 20,000 submissions, Loesch said. DOT staffers narrowed that pool to 50 finalists, using a loose list of criteria that included the number of times a single name was suggested and how broadly recognizable it might be.

Anything overtly political—George W. Push, Amy Snowbucher, Snowbama, Abolish ICE—was excluded, a decision Loesch said was based mostly on trying to keep the contest “fun and light-hearted.”

“Obviously some of the political names were creative,” he said. “But where do we draw the line? If we picked this phrase or that name, where do we go from there?”

More than 122,000 people cast votes in the contest. Plowy McPlowFace was the runaway winner with 65,292 votes. Loesch said DOT officials expected that the name might be a crowd favorite after a similar naming competition in 2016 left a $280 million research vessel christened “Boaty McBoatface.”

“We knew,” he said. “When we pitched the contest internally, I said, ‘It’s a very real possibility we will end up naming one snowplow Plowy McPlowFace.’ I suggested to our leadership that we had to be OK with that as an outcome, because when you let the internet decide these things, anything can happen.”

Other winning names include: Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya (if you’re from the Midwest, you get it), Duck Duck Orange Truck, F. Salt Fitzgerald, Darth Blader and the Truck Formerly Known As Plow (an homage to Prince, a Minnesota native). Among the popular finalists: Blizzard of Oz, C-3PSnow, Sir Plows A Lot, and Plowabunga!

The winning names will be emblazoned, in black letters, on the back of eight orange snowplows (and no, the Truck Formerly Known As Plow will not be painted purple). The stickers are in production in the department's sign shop now, Loesch said, and could be added to vehicles as early as next week. 

That leaves around 800 unnamed snowplows in the state’s fleet. DOT officials are considering soliciting names for more of them, Loesch said—another online contest, perhaps, or maybe putting out the call to schools.

“We’ve been kind of blown away by the response, and I’d love to find ways to do more,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to bring awareness to our snowplows, and the women and men who drive them, and to spread information about how to be safe while also having fun.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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