Just when you thought the Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS) in Joplin, MO was as good as it was ever going to be, they went ahead and made it even better! Held September 23-25, 2021, this huge Jamboree and Customer Appreciation event was like no other. Hosted by 4 State Trucks, with support from the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, Joplin 44 Petro, and TBS Factoring Service, this was an “Exit 4” event unlike any other. And with the Joplin 44 Petro collaborating with the GBATS producers, there was added space for even more vendors, more trucks, and more entertainment.
The last GBATS event was held in 2018, which celebrated the show’s 10th anniversary. At that point, the show moved to an every other year schedule because it had got so big and was so much work to produce. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the scheduled 2020 show did not happen. But instead of making everyone wait another two years, they went ahead and scheduled the event for 2021. Now, the show will be held every other year, but it will be on odd years instead of even years. The next one will be in 2023, assuming the world does not collapse between now and then!
With some of our crew arriving early on Wednesday, September 22, our booth, which was situated directly in front of the 4 State store, was basically set up that day. And since we mentioned the front of the store, we might also mention that the folks at 4 State Trucks did an addition to the front of their store that is really nice. The new semi-circular entry area features windows all around and a large lit-up sign above the doors featuring the 4 State Trucks logo. After the rest of us arrived on Thursday, we all started running the moment our feet hit the ground in Joplin.
The weather on Thursday, and for most of the entire event, was absolutely perfect, with temps in the mid-70s and clear blue skies. Coming from California, where several wildfires were burning out of control for weeks, it was nice to breath in fresh air with no smoke. This year’s GBATS featured Diesel Dirt Drags, which kicked off on Thursday, with time trials at 3:00 PM and then the races at 7:30 PM. Between these two events was the annual VIP Participant Dinner, which fed hundreds of people, and included chicken, pulled pork, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and green beans. For dessert, 10-4 Magazine and Rockwood Products provided delicious root beer floats for all to enjoy.
Friday saw a slight increase in the temperature, up to the lower 80s, and the wind picked up a bit. This wind helped keep everyone a bit more comfortable, but wreaked havoc on the magazines, posters, and centerfolds we were giving away in our booth. Thank goodness we had our “fancy” paperweights – custom engraved billet aluminum lug nut covers from Roll On Customs – to help hold everything down! Friday was a very busy day in the booth, and with leftover root beer and ice cream from the night before, we went ahead and gave away about 200 more complimentary root beer floats from our booth. Thanks to Carl Carstens of Rockwood Products for bringing the keg of Sprecher root beer all the way from Wisconsin, and to he and Jacob Gunderson for helping us serve them up until the keg went dry.
Parked directly in front of our booth was Chad Foss and his all-new “Silver Lining” Peterbilt. Built by Clint Moore, this super low rig, featuring an all-silver paint job and stripes in multiple shades of silver, was also featured on a new 10-4 Magazine shirt we debuted at this event. With a beautiful drawing of Chad’s truck and the tagline “Always Finding the Silver Lining” underneath, this shirt, along with our “Back Row” shirt (with the tagline “Hangin’ With the Cool Kids”), were both very popular. The amount of people walking around at this event was phenomenal!
During the day on Friday, we walked around and took photos, did live remotes (streamed directly to Facebook and our YouTube channel), and enjoyed some of the planned activities, including the big rig burnouts. With several trucks and drivers doing burnouts, a new truck and driver was added to mix – Bryan “Bossman” Martin himself, the owner of 4 State Trucks. After learning how to do burnouts in a big rig for his virtual GBATS event in 2020, Bryan fell in love with it and immediately decided to build his own truck and get out there and have some fun with the rest of the drivers. And he did! These burnout exhibitions continued throughout both days of the show (Friday and Saturday).
Trucks were parked everywhere… around the shop and store, in the grass next to it on one side and in the gravel lot on the other side, across the street in parking lots, at the Joplin 44 Petro, and anywhere else they could put them. In total, there were 765 trucks at this event and close to 40 vendors, so you can imagine the amount of space needed to accommodate this enormous number of booths, bobtails, and combos. Across the street at the Petro, several areas were dedicated to parking show trucks and antiques, along with a tent full of more vendors, and a bonus entertainment stage. It took all of 4 State Trucks’ 185 employees plus another 35 additional volunteers to run this massive event.
Getting around this enormous show and venue would have been impossible without a golf cart. Unfortunately, when we called to reserve two carts about two months before the show even happened, they were already sold out. At the time, I was still recovering from a broken foot and wearing a boot, and my wife had just broken her elbow and was in a sling, so walking around and carrying things was not an option. We also needed a cart to do our live remotes. Thankfully, we have some great friends out there. Our hats go off to Gary Jones who found us two available carts in Olathe, Kansas, picked them up, brought them to the show for us, and then returned them afterward. A huge “thank you” to Gary for going the extra mile (or two) for Team 10-4!
On Friday night, at 7:00 PM, it was time to head across the street for the Semi Truck & Tractor Pull presented by Lucas Oil. Before the pulls began, there was a motorcycle stunt show put on by United FMX, a faith-based team of experienced riders who performed some amazing ramp-to-ramp jumps over Mike Manuel’s beautiful show trailer, which is dedicated to Autism Awareness. This awesome stunt show was sponsored by all our friends at Lincoln Chrome. For the next two hours or so, hot rod diesel pickups, farm tractors, and big rigs attempted to pull a weighted sled down the dirt track in front of a sold-out crowd (they had to turn hundreds of people away). Once the final pull was complete and the winner was crowned (Pat Eilen), the show ended with a 10-minute “high impact” firework display that would rival any 4th of July celebration.
By Saturday the temperatures had risen up into the lower 90s, but it was still pretty comfortable. In addition to the big rig burnouts, there was also a Kid’s Pedal Tractor Pull, a “meet and greet” with some members of the Maximum Overdrive movie cast, along with a replica of the famous “green goblin” truck featured in it, and then an auction (at 4:00 PM) for preferred spots in the charity convoy for Special Olympics happening later that evening.
Just before the convoy began, it was time to pass out a few awards. This is not a “judged” show, but there are a few trophies handed out, most based on the competitor’s choices. The Best of Show Bobtail award went to Chad Foss and his slammed “Silver Lining” Peterbilt, and the Best of Show Combo trophy was given to Todd Gribble and his super-clean, dark blue 2012 Peterbilt and polished and painted pneumatic trailer. The People’s Choice went to Dusty Berry of Berry & Sons for his white Peterbilt 389 (all of the voting for the People’s Choice award was done on the GBATS app). The trophy for Best Rat Rod went to Jason Douglas of Arnold, MO and his 1950 GMC (Jason and his GMC were also the winners of the Diesel Dirt Drags on Thursday night). TBS gave out a “Coolest Truck” award to Don Wood of DSD Transport and his blue and yellow Peterbilt combo, and Zephyr Polish chose Kary Bryce of PMI and his “Snow White” Peterbilt as their “Best Shine” winner.
To try and mention all the notable trucks at GBATS would be impossible. There were, however, a few that really stood out. In addition to the trucks that got awards, with Chad Foss’ being one of my obvious favorites, the one that stood out the most to me was TraLo’s latest build – a highly customized Kenworth T660. Painted in “Legendary” metallic brown, gold, and red colors, with no visible bolts or brackets, this thing was smooth as a baby’s bottom. All the vents and handles were shaved clean from the exterior, the dash was reconfigured and completely custom, and its big sound system had plenty of one-off fiberglass speaker pods and such. Being an “aero” style truck, it probably didn’t get the attention it deserved, but it was definitely worth a second (or third) look.
Once the awards were handed out and a few pictures were taken, it was time for the convoy. Held as a fundraiser for Special Olympics of Missouri, each participant is asked to donate $100 to the cause. This year’s event included a record number of trucks (429) and raised almost $160,000! The 8.5-mile route took the convoy of trucks north toward Joplin proper, but instead of going all the way into the downtown area like before, the trucks were diverted to Mercy Park, not far from the usual location. Parked along a wide side street, there were four rows of trucks, parked end to end, with a walkway down the middle. This 4-row lineup of amazing bobtail trucks went on for well over a mile.
Once parked, it was now dark, so all the trucks turned on their lights for an incredible four-wide, mile-long light show. For a minute there, we thought we were stuck in a massive traffic jam of trucks on the 405 Freeway, in Los Angeles, on the Friday night of a 3-day weekend! Walking that line was tough with my broken foot and boot, but we did it (well, most of it). Along the line, there were various food trucks to visit, and at the end was a huge stage where a free-to-the-public concert took place. Once the concert was done around 11:00 PM, the 11th GBATS officially ended. It is amazing how fast a few days can go when you are busy and having fun.
After our traditional end of show wrap-up with “Bossman” Bryan on Monday morning, it was time to board a plane and head home. The 12th GBATS is scheduled for September 2023. Stay tuned to 10-4 for more information as it becomes available and, as always, if you are rolling through Joplin, be sure to stop in at 4 State Trucks (I-44 @ Exit 4) to check it out and grab your free copy of 10-4 while there. We hope to see you in 2023 – trust us when we say, you do not want to miss this fun show that seems to get “even better” every time.