fleet of snowplows on a street in minnesota

Snowplowing is serious business in Minnesota. But when residents were given a chance to name eight state snowplows, they unleashed a blizzard of creativity. (Courtesy Minnesota DOT)

Plow Bunyan and Darth Blader: Minnesotans Get Clever in Snowplow Naming Contest

By Mark Wolf | March 5, 2021 | State Legislatures News

Since snow removal rivals hockey as Minnesota’s prime winter pastime, and since snowplows are the Zambonis of the state’s roads, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MDOT) has bestowed the behemoths with proper names.

Inspired by the response to a viral story about Scotland naming its snowplows (take a bow “Buzz Iceclear,” “Creedence Clear-Road Revival” and “On Her Majesty’s Slippery Surface”), Minnesotans peppered MDOT with questions about the Gopher State naming its plows.

“We decided we sure can,” Jake Loesch, MDOT’s senior director of communications, told NCSL.

Using a crowd-sourced contest to solicit names, then a ballot to pick one for each of the state’s regional transportation districts, MDOT empowered the good citizens of Minnesota to unleash a blizzard of creativity, pun-ditry and wordplay, including a nod to the state’s late pop idol.

The winners (in order of votes along with a full box score of the top 50) as chosen by 122,435 voters who could each pick up to eight names:

  • Plowy McPlowFace — Metro District
  • Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya — District 4
  • Duck Duck Orange Truck — District 1
  • Plow Bunyan — District 2
  • Snowbi Wan Kenobi — District 6
  • F. Salt Fitzgerald — District 7
  • Darth Blader — District 3
  • The Truck Formerly Known As Plow — District 8

The winning names are expected to be emblazoned on the plows within a week or so.

“I was really surprised (at the response),” Loesch said. “We didn’t do a lot of promotion on it. We put it on our social media channels, linked to the submission form on our website and sent out a news release. It just took off in the local press and online. After that first day we had a couple of thousand submissions and wound up getting over 22,000.”

Narrowing the list to 50 was a challenge.

“We felt like that was a reasonable number that made it practical for people to look through quickly, pick their favorite eight and get on with their day,” Loesch said. “Certainly, there was a level of subjectivity. We tried to look at it with an eye for names that were recognizable, unique and creative, and Minnesota-specific.”

Excluded was anything political or controversial (out went “Abolish ICE” and “George W. Push,” among others).

Owing to a 2016 name-the-boat campaign in England, Loesch pegged the likely winner even before votes were cast.

“I did warn our people that Plowy McPlowFace was likely to get the most votes, and everybody was OK with that,” he said.

Will fleets of cleverly named plows soon be clearing roadways from coast to coast? Naming efforts are underway in Vermont, Michigan and South Dakota, and Colorado just announced a naming contest among elementary school students.

As for Minnesota, there are no immediate plans to name more plows but “the possibilities are endless,” Loesch said, and MDOT is exploring future options.

“I think part of the reason it took off was that last year was so challenging for a lot of folks, and if this was nothing but a lighthearted distraction that put a smile on people’s faces, I think we did our job,” he said.

Mark Wolf edits the NCSL Blog.

Additional Resources