What could be better than the fun and madness that happens each and every year at the show in Joplin, Missouri? More of it! For the past six years, we have watched the Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS) start from next to nothing and turn into one of the biggest and best events of the year. With the best people, the best trucks, the best vendors, the best events, the biggest convoy, and the best hosts (the Martin family and their crew), it is easy to see how this show has become what it is today – and, on top of all that, almost everything is free!
Held on September 25-27 at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, Missouri, the un-official start of the show was a VIP dinner for all of the vendors and participants on Thursday night. With about 400 in attendance, this dinner gets bigger every year. Featuring smoked ham and turkey, with all the sides, and cake and ice cream for dessert, it was another great dinner at GBATS. During the meal, we at 10-4 honored our young contributor Ciara Sleeth, as it was her 17th birthday that day. Bryan Martin had brought her to the show to be the official photographer of the event, so we all celebrated by singing her Happy Birthday and then we presented her with a few gifts. After dinner, everyone went outside for a human truck pull – three teams of two were selected to see how far and fast they could manually pull a daycab Peterbilt 379 with tow straps. The winning team was Bob Brinker and Charlie Bates Jr.
The show officially began on Friday and the weather could not have been nicer. After all of the rain last year, warm temperatures and sunny skies were a welcome sight this year! Not many events are planned on Friday, which gives the participants and attendees time to walk around and check out the trucks and displays – and with some 30 vendors and 314 trucks, it was a full day, for sure. Each day had one shop tour, and both of these behind-the-scene looks at 4 State Trucks had 100 people participate. At the end of the day, Lincoln Chrome sponsored a fly-by of two WW-II era planes, which closed-out the daylight festivities on Friday. Now, it was time to get ready for the truck and tractor pull.
With the grandstands filled to maximum capacity (and then some), thousands of people watched as 45 trucks and tractors, competing in six different classes, did their best to pull the weighted “sled” all the way down the dirt track. With smoke belching, engines screaming, and oftentimes the front tires up in the air, the trucks and tractors entertained the spectators for three hours. During the event, Bryan Martin and his family also presented their special Larry Martin Memorial Award to longtime supporter, hard worker, and all-around trucking ambassador Tom Eilen. One of the highlights of the truck pull was a smoke and flame show put on by the U.S. Fire Force jet truck – a 1940 Ford twin jet engine fire truck owned and operated by Mark & Shelia Smith of Nixa, MO. There were winners in every class, but the only award that was handed out was for “Best Pull” – which was chosen by the event sponsor and promoter, Speedco, and given to Joe English, driver of the black “Magnum” Mack. An amazing five-minute fireworks display, courtesy of United Pacific, ended the night with a bang!
With more fantastic weather, Saturday proved to be another awesome day. Featuring a kid’s pedal tractor pull, complete with its own grandstands and awards, a mechanical bull, and a big rig burnout exhibition several times throughout the day in the back parking lot, it was a busy day that went by fast. Before we knew it, the awards were being handed out – and this year there were only two trophies, and both of them were picked by the people. Best of Show Bobtail went to Bob Harley for his rare tilt-hood needle-nose 1972 Peterbilt, and Best of Show Combo went to Billy Rethwisch and his lime green and white Peterbilt 389 and matching Polar tanker trailer. After a few “gag awards” were handed out just for fun, the lead spots for the upcoming convoy for Special Olympics were then auctioned off to the highest bidders.
Leading the truck procession from 4 State Trucks to downtown Joplin was top-bidder Todd Thompson and his “Swaggin’ Wagon” ($7,000), followed by Donnie Ledgerwood ($4,100), Scott Wade of CEI ($2,800), and then two trucks owned by Truett Novosad (spot #4 $2,200 and spot #5 $2,100). Once the line of 300 trucks (a US and Canada record this year) all made it to downtown, everyone parked for a “street party” and light show. Local restaurants and merchants stayed open late to accommodate the large crowds and everyone had a great time – it was definitely a highlight of the entire GBATS event! Around 10:00 p.m. some of the trucks began to calmly leave, and by 11:00 p.m. the streets of Joplin were cleared and empty. And with that, the show was officially over for 2014.
This event gets bigger and better every year, so 2015 should be amazing. The dates for next year have been set for September 25-26, so mark your calendars now. If you have never been to GBATS, you need to be there because you do not want to miss any of the mafia madness!