It was 25 years ago, at the 1990 Walcott Truckers Jamboree, that I went to my very first truck show. This is also the place where I met my dear friend Bette Garber, and I got bit by the truck show bug. It’s been a crazy road I’ve traveled since then – one I could never have imagined – but I am so grateful to have had the opportunities this road has given me. Going to Walcott, this year, was a sort of homecoming, for me.
Walking down the rows of trucks, I couldn’t help but think of just how much this show has grown and how much has changed from that first show. Back then, the old shop was the background for the trucks in the beauty contest. Since then, it has kind of been like watching Las Vegas grow, during the years I ran west. I remember when the Excalibur Hotel was built in Vegas – it was the first big casino on the south side of town, out there with a big open area around it, kind of like Walcott was back when it was the only thing at exit 284, surrounded by corn fields, as far as the eye could see.
Vegas continues to grow, and now the Excalibur is dwarfed by the Luxor, Mandalay Bay, New York New York, and so many others. In much the same way, Walcott has grown, too – but nothing dwarfs Iowa 80’s place in truck stops and truck stop history. “The World’s Largest Truck Stop” continues to do their best to provide truckers (and car drivers) with everything they need when they are on the road so far away from home.
That first year, and every year I’ve been able to attend the Jamboree since, I have made new friends. It’s sad to think of the friends who are gone – we miss all of you. We treasure the memories and won’t forget all the good times we had in Iowa. When you get off at Exit 284 and see all the big tents set up and the southeast part of the parking lot blocked off and reserved for the show trucks, you know it’s time for Iowa 80’s “Thank You” celebration for truckers. This year, the 36th annual event was held Thursday through Saturday, July 9-11, 2015.
Thursday morning was rags down! This year, like last, I was a judge, along with my “sis” Heather Hogeland. What a difference it is to see a truck show from the other side – it was nice, however, not to have to clean all night, all the while praying for good weather. I have to say, I miss those days a little bit, though. After all that work, it’s a pride thing, when you get to drive a truck that looks so good and shines so bright. It’s not an easy job, looking at all those great interiors and trying to judge them, but the owner’s attention to detail did not go un-noticed by this judge.
Late Thursday morning, the smell of thick-cut Iowa Chops being grilled began to fill the air. These big chops are always a favorite of many returning drivers who look forward to them year after year. It only takes one trip to the Jamboree for newcomers to get hooked! And, after the sun set on Thursday night, the light show began, making the entire parking lot glow. The lights reflecting off all that polished stainless is always a spectacular sight to see. While checking out the light show, the sounds of train horns blowing and fireworks exploding could be heard for all to enjoy.
This year, my best friend from high school got to attend her first truck show, and she was definitely impressed. So much so, she promised to be back again next year. She enjoyed everything about the show. I got to take her and Heather to the Iowa 80 Headquarters, where we wandered the halls, looking back in time, at pictures of trucks and people that we have known for so many years.
It brought tears to my eyes to see a collage of pictures that Karen Zander put together back in 2004. Karen has always been creative, and she covered the frame with bicycle tires, leaving room for all of us to sign it. It was our “thank you” back then for what Iowa 80 did for all of us that came to their annual “family reunion” show. Delia Moon Meier told me that she shows everyone that picture, and that it is one of her favorites.
I made a new friend this year named Audrey Cloutier. She is from Montreal, Canada, and drives her dream truck – a very pink W-900 Kenworth pulling a very pink Wabash trailer that beautifully depicts the Canadian Maple Leaf and the American flag on the sides. This was the first show she has been to, but I know it won’t be her last. Her rig looked amazing sitting next to the carbon copy of it, but in red. Patrick, who drives the red one, and Audrey shared their matching KW logo tattoos with me, too. Patrick also has a tattoo on his forearm that says, “Never a failure ~ Always a Lesson” (what a great way to look at life). It was so much fun meeting them, and I have to admit that I love listening to their French accent. I would like to thank Kevin (I did not get his last name) for helping us translate.
Saturday the rain came, as it has so many times before at the Jamboree, but that did not deter the diehard truck fans. Even after the parking lot became a lake, folks got out their umbrellas and enjoyed all the beautiful, wet trucks and trailers. When they are this clean, the rain only adds to their beauty. Because of a hard downpour, the awards were delayed, but the show always goes on at Walcott.
Some of the more notable winners included Eric Harley, who got the Gary King Trucker Buddy Award – what an excellent choice! Jerry Linander, whose Sable Black and John Deere Green KW I featured back in December 2014, won the Best Theme award (and a few others), while my new friends from the north stood out enough for Audrey to win the Paint & Graphics Combo class, and for Patrick to take the top honors in his class – Combo (2010-2015). Some other impressive winners included Ken Fisher and his gold and green 1997 Peterbilt 379 and 2007 East flatbed (our September 2014 cover feature), Bob Harley and his maroon ‘72 Peterbilt 358A (our January 2015 cover feature), and our longtime friend John Jaikes and his purple 1999 Kenworth W900 and 2006 Utility (to see a complete list of all the winners, visit www.iowa80truckstop.com).
After passing out all of those big trophies, it’s time for those working trucks to do just that – go back to work. And after all that effort and time to put it together, it seems like it’s all gone in a matter of a few hours. The tents come down, the trucks roll out, and things are back to “normal” by Monday morning.
This event has always been more than just a truck show for me and many others – it’s a family reunion, created by a truck stop just wanting to say “thank you” to the drivers who move America. Next year’s show is scheduled for July 14-16, 2016. We hope to see you there.