The welcome mat was put out on August 14-16 for the Eau Claire Big Rig Truck & Tractor Show in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Terry and Linda Biddle successfully held a truck show – with no complaints! I wasn’t able to get there until Friday night when the light show was going on and the lit-up rigs were being judged, but it never gets old, seeing the pride drivers take in lighting up their rides. And with 12’ between each truck, it gave people plenty of room to get good pictures of their favorite trucks.
There were 84 trucks registered for the show, along with an additional 20+ that just parked for the weekend, filling the entire 7-acre parking lot. This year, new and simplified judging rules were unveiled so that the drivers would not be tied to their trucks during the judging. Instead, they were free to roam around, enjoy the show, and see the exhibitors and other attractions.
I am going to tell you early-on here that my favorite truck at this show was Jack and Mary Norton’s Green Bay Packer themed green and yellow Kenworth and Great Dane reefer trailer. But, I was not the only one who liked it a lot – they ended up getting 84% of the votes for the People’s Choice award! Let’s face it, in Wisconsin, they love their Packers. Mary said that this is the trophy that means the most to them. Their truck and trailer looked awesome, and they were very deserving of the honor.
Jack and Mary are old friends of mine that, years ago, we used to meet every week somewhere in Wyoming. It was nice to catch up a little after so many years since we’d seen each other. I want to send Mary and her family our deepest condolences from all of us here at 10-4 Magazine and everyone at the Eau Claire Big Rig Truck Show. Shortly after the truck show ended, after being diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer, Jack passed away on September 11, 2015. I am so glad that I got to spend some time with him at this show, because you just never know what might happen.
Terry and Linda Biddle would like to thank all of their amazing sponsors, especially River States and Ruan, who help make this event possible. And, the terrific staff at Photo Card Specialists, who keep the event going and improving every year. Also, thanks go out to the participants, exhibitors and volunteers who make it a truly special experience. There is free parking, free admission and, on Friday night, Allstate Peterbilt hosted a free movie and popcorn. There is music all weekend, and everyone strives to make sure the show is family-oriented. Allstate Peterbilt also sponsored face painting and a coloring contest for the kids, and there was a bounce house near the food tent, as well.
This year, attendance was down a bit because of the brutal heat. But, I was happy to see a few friends that I hadn’t seen in many years – Jim Sercombe from Jackson, MI was there with his beautiful old ‘79 Freightliner, and I was surprised to see Roger himself in the California Custom booth (it had been many years since I had seen him, and it was nice to catch up a bit). I also got to see my old friend Alex Debogorski, the original ice road trucker, who was at the show signing autographs all three days. Sometimes you don’t go to a truck show just to show your truck – you go to see old friends, and meet new ones, too.
Along with the beautiful trucks, there were 33 outdoor exhibitors and 38 big top exhibitors, offering driver recruiting opportunities, as well as chrome bumpers, wheel balancers, polish and other accessories. There were also Karate demonstrations by some local organizations, and a chainsaw artist.
The show proudly benefits not one but three non-profit organizations. The first is United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of West Central Wisconsin. Raffle tickets for a Harley Davidson motorcycle were being sold, and this year $5,500 was raised for the chapter. Andy and Stacey Axleson also organized a pancake feed. They, along with their children, helped all weekend long – the kids worked in the Allstate Peterbilt tent and did some face painting. They also manned the tent that collected the People’s Choice ballots. Paul Todorovick from Landstar Inway Trucking helped increase the money raised when he won ten Double Coin tires worth $4,000 and then donated them back to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to UCP. Sam Link from Chippewa Valley Grain and Processing made the winning bid at $3,000.
The second non-profit organization that benefits from this show is The Hands Foundation, which helps area homeless veterans and others in need through various means. The third non-profit group the show is proud to benefit is the Chippewa Valley Chapter of the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in America. It was nice to see these old fire trucks, that had done such an important job, restored and on display.
Saturday morning, the VFW 305 presented the colors. Later that day, there was an auction for who would have the lead spot in the parade that night. Leonard and Kathy Eads of Timberline Trading Co. in Lathrop, MO won the lead spot with their $1,300 donation to UCP! Keith Thiel from Moonlighter Express in Arkdale, WI got the second spot with his $500 donation. Then, at dusk, it was time to fire up them engines, turn on them lights, and give the town of Eau Claire a light show – trucker style.
Keith Thiel, and a number of other wonderful drivers, including Glen Rice, Paul Todorovick and more, took excited children and their guardians along with them for the ride in the light parade. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing all those trucks lined up, with their horns blaring, and a little jake braking for the kids to enjoy. The only thing better than watching the parade would be driving my truck in it (maybe next year).
Sunday morning, before the awards were handed out, American Legion Post 53 presented the colors and featured Bob Morse, who made a bugle call to colors, and then closed with Taps. Retired Navy Seal Tom Hanrath sang the National Anthem on both mornings. Trophies were presented with the help of Boy Scout Troop 77 from Wissota, WI. When the presentation was all over, Terry and Linda gave a very heartfelt “thank you” to everyone for coming out and making the show such a huge success.
I want to personally thank Terry and Linda for inviting me to come and cover this event that I had heard so many good things about. I have to agree with Dennis Hilker when he said, “This is a first class truck show!” Next year, the 7th Annual Eau Claire Big Rig Truck & Tractor Show will be held at the very same location again – the Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire, WI. Mark your calendar now and come for a good time with old and new friends.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Special thanks to Molly Skifton and Photo Card Specialists for providing some of the great truck photos for this article.