This year’s Walcott Truckers Jamboree was a real “welcome back” event for me. Held every year in Walcott, Iowa at the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, which just happens to be the largest truck stop in the world, this was the show’s 35th year. And, on top of that, the truck stop itself was celebrating their 50th year – and turning 50 has never looked better!
This show has always been special to me. The first time I came to this show in 1990 was my very first show ever, and coming back every year for me, and many drivers, is a family reunion of the show sort. A shirt I saw summed it all up – it said, “Somethin’ ‘bout a truck!” – and boy is that true. There is something special about every one of these trucks, and every one of them has a driver or owner with a story to tell.
The Jamboree is a place where we can all reminisce about the past, share stories about our friends who are gone, and remember the trucks that were awesome in their day. The owners of Iowa 80, the Moon family, put on this event every year to say “thank you” to the drivers and their employees, as well. I have watched this show grow over the decades, but no matter how big it gets, one thing will never change – the fun we have and the friends we make here.
This year I got to share my favorite show with my friends Heather and Roger Hogeland. In all of the years they showed their trucks, they never made it to the Jamboree, and after this week, they regret not being able to participate in this event. But, they are planning to be back next year. Heather and I were asked to judge the interiors, and it was hard. We know how hard it is to make the inside of a truck special – we’ve both been there, done that! Of course, we were the last judges out there, but in our defense, we had to get in and out of all the trucks to do it right, so it took a little longer. Roger was sent out to judge a class of combos, and then on Thursday night, the three of us, along with our dear friend Paul Abelson, set out to judge the Lights at Night, but it did not go very smooth.
We set out with a 10 pm deadline to judge the lights. With train horns blowing, fireworks exploding, and a full moon hanging in the sky, we made it all the way to the end of the line and then the golf cart died. Heather and I took off for the tent to get another cart, but on our way we ran into Delia and she said, “Take mine – it holds four.” Back we go to get the guys and continue judging, then a guy says, “You know you’ve got a flat tire, right?” So, back we go again, this time to get Paul’s cart. This time we were good, and I am very proud to report that we accomplished our mission and finished judging at 10 pm straight up! Three trucking veterans with millions of miles under their belts and a technical writer for the trucking industry and we all forgot to pre-trip our golf cart! Well, that won’t happen next year.
At Iowa 80, “family” is not just lip service, it’s a fact. So many places today do not want family members working together, but at Iowa 80 it is encouraged. Just talk to a few employees and you will hear about how they are “part of the Iowa 80 family” and who else in their family works there, too. A perfect example is at the Caribou Coffee Shop in the main building. The first morning, Heather and I each got a latte. The next morning, Sherann remembered what both of us had ordered the morning before and her mother, Gina, who is a manager, was working with her, too. She also said that her granddaughter
Lexi was working out in the tent. On Sunday, when we went back to get everyone’s name for this story, another mother-daughter duo was working together – Beverly, a supervisor, was working with her daughter, Cari. At Iowa 80, they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk!
Everyone in the show gets a really nice trophy for being a participant. The Moons know that everyone works hard to get their truck or truck and trailer cleaned up for the show, and they want to make sure that everyone who comes is recognized for their time and efforts. This year, the hardware was gold, in honor of the truck stop’s 50th birthday, and there was truly some “Big Iron” in the trophy department!
What birthday party would be complete without a cake? This cake was extra special – it was made by Mauro Castano of Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ. As some might know, Mauro works with “Buddy” the Cake Boss on the hit TV show. A replica of the truck stop along with six huge sheet cakes was baked on Tuesday and then left Hoboken, NJ on Thursday afternoon. At the ceremony, prior to cutting the cake, Delia Moon Meier told us that after watching the show and all the drama associated with delivering the cakes, she was a little worried that she might have to serve everyone Twix candy bars if it didn’t make it. Delivered safe and sound on Friday morning, this cake was awesome – and delicious.
The concerts on stage Thursday night had the band “North of 40” opening for Chris Janson (I wish I had just a smidgen of this young man’s energy) – and boy can this guy sure play the harmonica. On Friday night, Lindsay Lawler opened for country music legend John Anderson, who had just been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame two weeks earlier. I have a video of him singing his closing song, Seminole Wind, and now, every time I play it, I will be taken back to this great night in Walcott, Iowa. On Saturday afternoon, Dani Lynn Howe was the last to take the stage before the real stars of the event – the participants in the Super Truck Beauty Contest, as they handed out all of those beautiful gold trophies to the excited winners.
If you’ve never been to the Jamboree, the stage is set up and then “chairs” (hay bales) are set up in front of it, along with lawn chairs that people bring to sit in any open spot – it’s just a great “family” get-together. Sitting on a hay bale Saturday night brought back loads of memories for me, and some were bittersweet. I am thankful that Heather was finally able to share what I had talked about for years, but we were both missing the friend that I had met there 24 years ago, Bette Garber. Bette would have loved being part of our adventures this year and all the fun we had. Bette, we will always miss you!
Carolyn Moon, the owner of the truck stop, jokingly said at the awards that she was there in the beginning and she wanted to speak while she could still remember (you never know about next year). How true that is – none of us know what tomorrow will bring, let alone next year, but we will set our sights on making it to the 36th Jamboree, for sure. Carolyn shared a memory with me about the light show. In the early years, drivers kept asking for a light show, but they were just too busy with everything else to do it. But, like everything else, when you ask for something at Iowa 80, they will make it happen. Now, the “Lights at Night” is one of Carolyn’s favorite parts of the entire event each year.
A beautiful stone monument was dedicated on Saturday afternoon just outside of the main building. When the black plastic was removed, it said: “Serving you is our world! Dedicated to the generations of truck drivers, their families, and the people who work here that have built this destination. It has been a great adventure being part of your lives. Thank You. The Moon Family.” Around the tall monument, I noticed that some flowers and a tree had been planted, and I, for one, will enjoy watching them grow over the years, just as I have watched this amazing truck stop continue to grow over the years.
Thank you to the Moon family for listening to drivers and adding so many conveniences that are hard for them to find when out on the road. And, thanks for all of the memories of both hot and cold summers in Iowa, wind, rain and the sunshine, too – through it all, the show has, and always will, continue to go on. And this year’s winners were:
CABOVER: 1st Neal Pearson, Lone Tree, IA – 1984 Kenworth K100; 2nd Chris Gornik, Franklin Park, IL – 1988 Ford CL9000; 3rd Mike Harbison, Morning Sun, IA – 1982 Mack.
COMPANY TRUCK (BOBTAIL): 1st Darryl Kauffman, Shipshewana, IN – 2004 Kenworth T800.
COMPANY TRUCK (COMBO): 1st Zach Pletcher, Elkhart, IN – 2012 Kenworth.
SPECIALTY: 1st Buck Monson, Davenport, IA – 1987 Peterbilt wrecker.
BOBTAIL (2014-2011): 1st Rollie Kruse, Toronto, SD – 2013 Freightliner Coronado; 2nd Rodger Nelson, Warman, SK Canada – 2013 Peterbilt 389; 3rd Dan Brown, Salem, WI – 2012 Peterbilt.
BOBTAIL (2010-2004): 1st Larry Wheeler, Lowell, IN – 2004 Peterbilt; 2nd Paul Saline, Rio, IL – 2009 Kenworth W900L; 3rd Mitch Broderson, East Peoria, IL – 2007 Western Star.
BOBTAIL (2003-1997): 1st JR Schleuger, Britt, IA – 2003 Kenworth; 2nd Scott Lynch, Witt, IL – 1998 Mack; 3rd Logan Massey, Worthington, IA – 1999 Peterbilt.
BOBTAIL (1996-1989): 1st Ron Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 1993 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Chad Robertson, Clarence, MO – 1996 Kenworth W900L.
BOBTAIL (1988 & OLDER): 1st Ernie Bates, Burlington, CO – 1970 Peterbilt 359; 2nd Tim Stevenson, North Mankato, MN – 1987 Peterbilt; 3rd Tyler Jaeger, Worthington, IA – 1972 Peterbilt.
COMBO (2014-2009): 1st Dan Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 2014 Peterbilt & 2015 Wilson; 2nd John Hildreth, Guthrie, OK – 2014 Freightliner Cascadia & 2015 Walker; 3rd Craig Schroyer, Celina, OH – 2015 Peterbilt & 2013 Landoll.
COMBO (2008-2000): 1st Jerry Linander, Winona, MN – 2007 Kenworth W900L & 2014 Great Dane; 2nd Shawn Cielke, Haugan, MT – 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash; 3rd Shawn Swanson, Prophetstown, IL – 2002 Kenworth W900B & 2010 Retinour.
COMBO (1999 & OLDER): 1st Daniel & Phyllis Snow, Harrison, AR – 1996 Freightliner Classic & 2006 Utility; 2nd Wesley Wulff, Gann Valley, SD – 1993 Peterbilt 379 & 1997 Dorsey; 3rd Dennis Hilker, New London, WI – 1994 Freightliner Classic & Utility Reefer.
SHOW TRUCK: 1st Harvey Zuidema, Morrison, IL – 1957 DIVCO (the milk truck).
CUSTOM PAINT (BOBTAIL): 1st Ron Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 1993 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Dan Brown, Salem, WI – 2012 Peterbilt; 3rd Mitch Broderson, East Peoria, IL – 2007 Western Star.
CUSTOM PAINT (COMBO): 1st Dan Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 2014 Peterbilt & 2015 Wilson; 2nd Shawn Swanson, Prophetstown, IL – 2002 Kenworth W900B & 2010 Retinour; 3rd Terry Redding, Omaha, NE – 2012 Freightliner Coronado & 2011 Utility.
CUSTOM GRAPHICS (BOBTAIL): 1st Harvey Zuidema, Morrison, IL – 1957 DIVCO (the milk truck); 2nd Larry Pruitt, St. Clair, MO – 2007 Mack; 3rd Rodger Nelson, Warman, SK Canada – 2013 Peterbilt 389.
CUSTOM GRAPHICS (COMBO): 1st Shawn Cielke, Haugan, MT – 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash; 2nd Jerry Linander, Winona, MN – 2007 Kenworth W900L & 2014 Great Dane; 3rd Craig Schroyer, Celina, OH – 2015 Peterbilt & 2013 Landoll.
POLISH & DETAIL (BOBTAIL): 1st Ron Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 1993 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Paul Saline, Rio, IL – 2009 Kenworth W900L; 3rd Dan Brown, Salem, WI – 2012 Peterbilt.
POLISH & DETAIL (COMBO): 1st Shawn Swanson, Prophetstown, IL – 2002 Kenworth W900B & 2010 Retinour; 2nd Shawn Cielke, Haugan, MT – 2007 Kenworth T600 & 2014 Wabash; 3rd Jerry Linander, Winona, MN – 2007 Kenworth W900L & 2014 Great Dane.
INTERIOR (CAB ONLY): 1st Scott Lynch, Witt, IL – 1998 Mack.
INTERIOR (OEM SLEEPER): 1st Matt Baenziger, Kingston, IL – 2005 Peterbilt 379; 2nd Shawn Cielke, Haugan, MT – 2007 Kenworth T600; 3rd Larry Pruitt, St. Clair, MO – 2007 Mack.
INTERIOR (CUSTOM SLEEPER): 1st Michael & Jackie Wallace, Miramar, FL – 2007 Freightliner Coronado; 2nd Daniel & Phyllis Snow, Harrison, AR – 1996 Freightliner Classic & 2006 Utility; 3rd Gary Greer, Barnhart, MO, 1974 Kenworth W925 Straight Truck (the whole box is his sleeper).
LIGHTS AT NIGHT (BOBTAIL): 1st Mitch Broderson, East Peoria, IL – 2007 Western Star; 2nd JR Schleuger, Britt, IA – 2003 Kenworth; 3rd Paul Saline, Rio, IL – 2009 Kenworth W900L.
LIGHTS AT NIGHT (COMBO): 1st Matt Baenziger, Kingston, IL – 2005 Peterbilt 379 & 2015 Merritt; 2nd Dan Brubaker, Sigourney, IA – 2014 Peterbilt & 2015 Wilson; 3rd Shawn Swanson, Prophetstown, IL – 2002 Kenworth W900B & 2010 Retinour.
LIGHTS AT NIGHT (SPECIALTY): 1st Buck Monson, Davenport, IA – 1987 Peterbilt wrecker.
BEST OVERALL THEME: Larry Pruitt, St. Clair, MO – 2007 Mack.
TRUCKER’S CHOICE: Rodger Nelson, Warman, SK Canada – 2013 Peterbilt 389.