In the summer of 2021, I met a gentleman by the name of Mike Braun from Franklin Grove, IL at a truck show in Wisconsin. Having lived most of my life in Illinois, I have traveled extensively throughout the state and know many of the towns and cities. But Franklin Grove was one I was not familiar with, nor did I know where it was located. So, I had to look this one up. I discovered that I have been near this town many times, but not in it. But I digress.
Mike stopped by the 10-4 booth and introduced himself. After providing him some free magazine and posters, he proceeded to tell me about a truck show that he and several people from his hometown of Franklin Grove organized and put on annually the first weekend of August. He asked my advice about how he could get greater exposure for their truck show, named the Franklin Grove Big Rig Truck Show. He also invited 10-4 Magazine to attend and cover the event. My immediate recommendation was to advertise the show in 10-4 and post it on our online Events Calendar. Mike took my advice and advertised the show in our magazine in 2022, listed it on the Events Calendar, and I was approved to attend their show for the first time in August 2022. That show was memorable because it was unusually hot and humid that day. I posted several photos and a few videos from that show to the Ten Four Magazine Lounge (our official Facebook Group page).
Pleased with our coverage, Mike invited us back for their 2023 show. For the Big Rig Show this year, we decided to provide support with a booth, handing out free magazines and posters at the 2023 show held on Saturday, August 5th, at the Chaplin Creek Historical Site about a mile south of Franklin Grove. The town is a small farming community of about 1,000 people located in north central Illinois. It is two hours straight west of Chicago, 45 minutes southwest of Rockford, and one hour straight east of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa. The area where the trucks are parked is on groomed grass and expansive – the show grounds could easily accommodate 150-200 big rig trucks.
The Big Rig Truck Show is part of the Franklin Grove Harvest Festival that happens annually the first weekend of August. President Bryan Atkinson and Mike as Vice President lead a team of 12 people to plan, organize, and put on this event. They also have a group of volunteers who assist on the day of the truck show. Planning and organizing this event is a year-long process that starts immediately after the previous year’s show ends. I had the opportunity to meet and interview Bryan and Mike, as well as meeting all of the truck show team, on the day of the show.
According to Bryan and Mike, the truck show started small at Bryan’s shop with bobtails only. It is not a judged event, and most drivers just park their rigs and enjoy the day. Since moving to the bigger Chaplin Creek Historical Site, the truck show has steadily grown over the past 12 years. With good weather in 2022, nearly 100 trucks participated in the event. The numbers were down this year because it rained most of the morning on the day of the show. By noon, the rain had left, the sun came out, and it turned out to be a very pleasant afternoon. Almost 70 trucks attended and participated in this year’s event.
There were many other scheduled activities that took place during the weekend of the Harvest Festival including an antique equipment show, city wide garage sales, an art show, parade, live music, lots of food and beer. The truck show is a family oriented event and there were many activities planned for kids that included a petting zoo, horse riding corral, face painting, rides in carts pulled by a tractor around the truck show field, and a big bounce house. The petting zoo, horse rides, and bounce house were the most popular activities and attracted a lot of parents and children. It was nice to see all the kids included in the truck show event and planned activities.
Entertainment for the adults at the event included viewing all the trucks participating in the show, taking tours of all the historical buildings on the grounds, with some being built in the 1850s, visiting the various craft booths, and listening to a great mix of music provided by 3D Sound Company. Along with marketing the Big Rig Truck Show, Mike and his wife, with the assistance of many volunteers, provided a variety of great food in the food tent for all the participants and attendees of the show. Mike and his amazing team of volunteers prepared and cooked all the food sold at the food tent. I am a sucker for brats and had two of them, which were, by the way, delicious! By 3:00 PM most of the food and drinks had sold out.
Support for the Big Rig Truck Show is evident as there were nearly 50 sponsors from the community and surrounding area who contributed time, money, services, and products to make this event successful and worthwhile to attend. Bryan and Mike indicated that besides showing trucks, their primary objective is to be a charitable event. They have a relationship with Shriners based in Rockford, IL. All financial contributions from the show are donated to the Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund. Money from this fund is used to transport children with needs and their families to doctors and hospitals at no cost to those families. After the show, Mike sent me a message indicating that the Big Rig Truck Show has donated over $100,000 in total over the past 10 years to the Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund. That is a huge accomplishment and something to be proud of, especially since this is not a very large event.
Despite all the rain and somewhat wet conditions on Saturday, August 5th, the truck show did go on. Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Bryan, Mike, and their 12-person team for putting on another successful Big Rig Truck Show in Franklin Grove, in the farmlands of north central Illinois.
If you happen to be in the area visiting Chicago, Rockford, or the Quad Cities on the first Saturday of August 2024, make the drive to this event. I am confident you will enjoy the show and it feels good to contribute to a very worthwhile charity supported by the Big Rig Truck Show and Harvest Festival. Thanks to Bryan and Mike for inviting 10-4 to be a part of this event!