Celebrating some of our essential heroes in the trucking industry, I had the good fortune to attend the 31st Annual Waupun Truck-n-Show, held on August 14-15, 2020, in Waupun, WI. I say good fortune because this is an outstanding event that is enthusiastically supported by the local community, and with truck shows being few and far between in 2020 because of COVID concerns, when the opportunity to cover one presented itself, I took it. This is a very laid back, family friendly event held on the spacious grounds of the Waupun Community Center and Waupun High School. I have attended this fun truck show on many occasions in the past, and it has always surpassed my expectations.
This popular event is typically held the third weekend of August on an annual basis. The show began as the Truck’n Jamboree in August 1990, but in 1991 the name of the show was changed to the Waupun Truckers Jamboree. Eventually, it became its current iteration, as the Waupun Truck-n-Show. This is a truck show celebrated for and attended by working trucks from all over the United States and Canada, and money is raised for two important charity organizations: Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin and Special Olympics of Wisconsin. The first 200 trucks registered for the truck show this year received a special 30th anniversary plaque.
Planned, organized, and executed by the Waupun Truck-n-Show Board of Directors, their committee, volunteers, sponsors, and the community of Waupun, the head of planning for this year’s show was Duey Vande Zande. Assisting him were Steve Schaalma, Steve Wendt, Jackie Ferricks, and the entire Waupun Truck-n-Show Committee. I spoke with Duey several times throughout the show, and he was very helpful – he even lent me a green folding chair that came in handy during the parade on Saturday.
Waupun is a vibrant community that actively participates in this yearly event. The Waupun Community Center and Waupun High School, where the show takes place, is located on the north end of town, and the trucks are parked in various parking lots and grassy areas throughout the spacious grounds. The hub of the weekend activities is the Community Center itself, where about 30 vendor booths were located. Some of the more recognizable vendors were Big Rig Chrome, Big Rig Tees, California Custom Products, JX Peterbilt, Pomps Tire Service, RoadWorks, S&J Trucks, Southside Tire, Transport Refrigeration, Truck Country Freightliner, US Army, and Waukesha State Bank. This is also where the food and drinks were served by the Fox Lake Snow Blazers. I sampled some of the food including the famous Wisconsin brats, pork chop sandwiches, and cheeseburgers, and all were very tasty.
One of the unique aspects of the Waupun Truck-n-Show is bidding for positions in the Friday evening “Lights of the Night” parade and the Saturday afternoon “Rides of Pride” parade through Waupun. The top 10 bidders determine the first 10 positions for these parades, and all of the money raised goes to the charities. The actual lead truck in the parade was driven by Ron Naber, the 2020 Parade Marshall for the Waupun Truck-n-Show. His conventional 1979 Mack Superliner was featured on all the official 2020 show memorabilia, as well. There have been many notable parade marshals over the years, which include recognizable names like Harvey and Karen Zander, Tod Job, Vinnie Diorio, Trev Timblin, Jerry and Kay Kissinger, Jack Moss, and many others.
Throughout the day on Friday, trucks continued to arrive and get parked, as their owners worked hard to get them show-ready. The day started out cool, then temps rose to the mid-80s later that afternoon, providing perfect weather. Face painting for the kids, sponsored by Homers Towing out of Milwaukee, WI, was done all afternoon. The Special Olympics program and parade auction ran from 7:00 to 8:00 pm, and then the band Riding Shotgun played from 8:00 pm until midnight.
The “Lights of the Night” parade started at 9:00 pm and ended around 10:30 pm. The Friday parade started at the Community Center then headed east through town, before heading back to the Community Center. I did a live broadcast on 10-4’s Facebook page of the parade, which was awesome, but viewing it in person was even better.
The weather on Saturday started out with ominous and foreboding dark clouds, which eventually turned to rain and thunderstorms, that lasted until mid-afternoon. Fortunately, by the time “rags down” arrived at noon, most of the rain had subsided and the sun had come back out. At noon, the VFW/American Legion Color Guard performed the National Anthem to honor America. Over 200 trophies and plaques for the truck show were generously donated by trucking companies, local businesses, and individuals. Judging was done by a group of 25 people. On display on two farm wagons, these awards were handed out Saturday evening after the “Rides of Pride” parade took place later that afternoon. Once again, led by the Parade Marshall Ron Naber, Police and other first responders joined the procession of trucks through Waupun.
There were several trucks that attracted much attention from attendees, participants, and judges. Jimmy Ganski’s red and white Peterbilt and matching reefer received many awards, including Best of Show/Standard DOT Lights, Best of Show in the Diamond Category, and 1st place in the Combo class. There were also several aero trucks on display at Waupun, and one in particular that got a lot of attention and awards was Mike Wilkinson’s yellow T680 KW with black and lime green stripes. Hailing from Canada, Mike and his KW earned two awards – Best of Light Show/Modified Class and 1st place in the Chrome Competition. Devon Johnson of Jade Transportation and his green and orange KW and matching tanker, also from Canada, earned Best of Show in the Chrome Category/Exterior Only class.
Delabarre Trucking out of North Dakota brought out four very nice Pete conventional combinations to the show. Brothers Bo, Hunter, and Jason brought home several awards with their good-lookin’ rigs, but their yellow and black 379 impressed me the most. Some other trucks and fleets I admired were Caine Transfer, Pete Transfer, K&D Trucking, Pagels, Riffey Transport, Fisher Inc., and Smedema Trucking, but the most eye-catching and recognizable trucks on the grounds were the ones owned by Vinnie Diorio of Rollin Transport.
Along with his Factory Billet Power #88 racing boat, being hauled by Scott Diller’s amazing A-model KW (our May 2011 cover feature), Vinnie also had his most recently completed build on display – a black Peterbilt 389 with red and white stripes and a matching trailer – along with several of his other striking rigs, including his blue Pete with orange stripes and matching trailer (our December 2012 cover feature). Vinnie’s collection of trucks and race boat drew the most attention at this year’s Waupun Truck-n-Show, hands down.
Upon completion of the parade and the awards ceremony, the band Royal South provided live music inside the Community Center from 7:30 pm until after midnight. After the awards, many of the trucks participating in the truck show started leaving. In all, the show had 275 trucks – 190 competed in the judged contests, and 85 participated in just the parades. A total of $5,300 was raised for Special Olympics and $19,380 for Make-A-Wish of Wisconsin.
But, like the end of the weekend when the carnival came to town when I was a kid, this truck show weekend came to an end much too quickly. However, it was nice to visit with many friends, meet new ones, and help honor some of our true essential heroes. My hope is to attend this event in 2021 and have a booth there representing 10-4 Magazine. My sincere thanks to Duey Vande Zande, Dan and Shannon Linss, John Testa, and Tim Cody for their assistance in making this yet another great weekend.