The 13th Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS) was again one of the largest and most exciting events of the year. But the words that would best describe the 2023 event, directly from Bossman Bryan Martin himself, would be “constant change” – because that’s what this weekend was all about. Held again at 4 State Trucks in Joplin, MO on September 21-23, this show had it all… over 750 trucks, 30+ vendors, concerts, monster trucks, a demolition derby, a charity convoy, activities for kids and more, along with bad weather that caused a lot of challenges. But sometimes you just gotta go with the flow.
Flying into Tulsa on Wednesday to get the weekend started, after a quick trip to an amazing Costco store in Oklahoma (one of the biggest we had ever been in), we made the uneventful hour-long trek up into Joplin – so we thought. Stopping by the show to say “hello” and get the lay of the land, we got out of our rental car, and it looked as if we had been hit from behind. The entire rear bumper cover on the driver’s side had peeled back and was sticking straight out! We were scratching our heads trying to figure it out when we all realized the car had obviously been hit previously and the bumper cover was just pushed back into place. Apparently, while traveling at excessive speeds along I-44 toward Joplin, the wind must have pulled it loose again, so we did what the last people did and just pushed it back into place. Not a very big deal, but not the best way to start a trip.
After realizing Thursday was not an “official” event day, we decided to sleep in a bit before heading to the show to set up our booth. However, with rain in the forecast, we were hesitant to set up, since almost everything in our booth is paper, and as you know, paper and water do not mix well. We set up our canopies and chairs, and then spent the rest of the day talking, taking pictures, and having a little fun. A demolition derby was scheduled for that night, and despite a lot of mud, plenty of folks came out to enjoy the super fun event that went off without a hitch.
Kicking off our 30th anniversary celebration in the 10-4 booth near the front door of the 4 State Trucks chrome shop, we had special anniversary shirts, magazines, posters, and stickers (special thanks to Anthony Book at Long Haul Trucking for getting our pallet to Joplin). This year, 4 State Trucks teamed up with the Joplin 44 Petro and set up a big stage for the concerts and special events across the street in the Petro parking lot. We were used to everything happening near us by the front doors of the chrome shop in past years, so it was a little different. Because of this, we missed a few events. But the stage over there was awesome, and there was even a petting zoo!
Arriving on Friday morning to get our final setup in place, it was already raining hard, forcing us to wait it out. At about 1:00 PM the rain finally moved on and the sun came out for the rest of the day, which was a welcome sight. Once it got nice out, the show became very active, and we were busy for the rest of the day. I was told there were possibly 8,000-10,000 spectators and attendees at the event over the course of the three days! That is a lot. Spending most of Friday in our booth, we had fun talking to readers and fans, and spending time with our friends and neighbors from Valley Chrome and Zephyr Polish.
Across from our booth, OOIDA and Chrome Shop Mafia (CSM) were hosting a whole hog roast, but before the pig was put in the smoker, a couple local tattoo artists spent a few hours tattooing the hog with the OOIDA logo and the CSM “tommy gun” logo. It was fun, but kinda weird! The pig was put into a unique smoker that looked like an old 4-wheel drive SUV overnight, and then served the next day. Unfortunately, due to all the rain on Thursday night and Friday morning, the truck and tractor pull, scheduled for Friday night, had to be canceled because of all the water and mud. However, in its place, the monster trucks did an impromptu jam session much to the crowd’s delight.
As bad weather loomed in the future forecast, Saturday was nice. We spent the day in the booth and running around the show, capturing pictures and videos of various happenings. One of those happenings was Scott Winford, a talented chainsaw carver from Arkansas, who we (10-4 Magazine) sponsored to be at the event. This guy was awesome! We watched him carve several sculptures throughout the day including Halloween pumpkins, a majestic eagle, and an owl. There were also several monster truck exhibitions happening throughout the day, along with a kid pedal tractor pull, which we captured, as well.
With over 750 trucks at the show, it would be hard to pick a few favorites without leaving some out, but here goes. The ones that stood out to me included Jett Transport’s baby blue with white stripes Peterbilt 379X and polished Travis end dump, a gray Freightliner COE with a matching Utility reefer from Texas, and So Low Transport’s iridescent lime green Peterbilt, with tons of custom unique features and a stellar white and green interior. A few other standouts included J&L Contracting’s new red and gray Peterbilt 389 service truck, Conrad Shada’s sly purple and black 379/389 Peterbilt, and a neat black ‘48 Peterbilt, complete with a highly polished 3408 CAT stuffed under the butterfly hood. The “Murder Pete” is always fun to see, too, especially around Halloween.
On Saturday afternoon, across the street on the Joplin 44 Petro stage, Donald Trump impersonator Bob DiBuono did a full 30-minute presidential rally and speech. I did not get to be there, but I was told it was incredible. Although this is not a judged show, there were a few awards handed out, after the rally, on the same stage. The Best Bobtail award went to Conrad Shada for his purple and black Peterbilt; the Best Combo trophy went to Zach Strayer and his cream colored Peterbilt and polished cattle pot; the People’s Choice went to Brandon Avant and his red Peterbilt with a black stripe; and the “Top Kenworth” award went to Charlie Bates for his 1962 KW. The Kameron Wilken Memorial Award, chosen by Kam’s mom Shelly, was given to Mason Halcomb and his turquoise Peterbilt and polished hopper trailer.
To cover a show this large – spread out on both sides of the highway – is a tall order, especially when we have a vendor booth to run, too. Thankfully, I had some help! Our friend and past cover trucker Voris Steward (from way back in January 2013) came to the show with his family, which included his wife and two kids. One of these “kids” was their 15-year-old daughter Cerianna, who made it known that she was interested in photography. So, I hooked her up with one of my cameras, gave her a quick 10-minute lesson, and sent her off to shoot the show – and boy did she. Over the two show days, Cerianna took over 500 pictures. And she did an amazing job. Since then, we helped her get her own camera and gear (thank you, Mike), so look for more from this bright young star in the future. Many of the photos in this report were taken by Cerianna!
Also in Joplin, to help us cover the event, was our resident digital creator and “Studio 10-4 LIVE!” weekly show host, John Testa. John, with some help from Dustin Dickerson’s 14-year-old daughter Kyndel, was out and about during the entire event doing live interviews and truck walk-arounds for those on social media to watch and enjoy.
As the day was coming to a close and the weather was turning for the worse, the Saturday night activities were canceled, moved, or changed. Severe rain, flooding, and thunderstorms, along with the possibility of some isolated tornadoes, were predicted, so we began taking our booth down a little early. And it’s a good thing we did, because just as we got everything somewhat protected and covered, a huge downpour started that lasted for about an hour.
The evening activities scheduled included the charity truck convoy, the downtown street party, and a big outdoor concert – all of which were canceled (or moved inside). The first 20 spots of the convoy had already been auctioned off to the highest bidders, so at about 5:00 PM those 20 trucks did a quick loop around town and back. The next morning, which had fantastic weather, about 125 trucks participated in an additional convoy from Exit 4 to Exit 22 and back. And even with all the challenges, they were still able to raise an amazing $120,000 for Special Olympics of SW Missouri.
The outdoor concert that was scheduled to happen on Saturday night featuring Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye, and Aaron Tippin, dubbed the “Roots & Boots” tour, had to be moved inside or it would be canceled. After getting word of the situation, the folks at 4 State Trucks went on the hunt for a stage, finding one in Oklahoma City, which had to be picked up and then brought back to Joplin. Then, they spent the next 24 hours or so “moving mountains” in their warehouse to accommodate the stage and the crowd, which ended up being about 1,800 people. After all that, the concert went great, and Aaron Tippin even stuck around after the show to meet people, take pictures, and sign autographs.
Since the truckers in attendance got first priority to attend the concert and space was limited, we did not even try to go. We were pretty wiped out anyway. We headed back to the restaurant/bar attached to our hotel and sat down for dinner when Dill McKinney came over to our table and invited us to a private “trucker party” happening in a back room of the restaurant. Heading back there, we ended up having a great night with about 40 other friends from the show. Thanks to Dill for inviting us to “hang out with the cool kids” that night. We had a blast, even though our one waiter was a little overwhelmed, having to take care of everyone’s food and drinks!
When it was all said and done, throughout all the changes happening during the weekend, the 2023 GBATS was still a lot of fun, that raised a bunch of money for charity, and provided those of us in the trucking community with new memories to treasure forever. Thanks to the entire team at 4 State Trucks, our 10-4 team that included me, my wife Shannon, Eric Hill, and John Testa (along with several other helpers), Long Haul Trucking for taking our pallet to Joplin, and our friend and past cover trucker Tony Huttenstine (October 2019) and Fleenor Bros. for bringing it back to California a few weeks later. We could not do what we do without the fantastic support we get from our friends.
Driving back to Tulsa on Sunday afternoon, we went out for one final dinner together, hit the hay, and were at the airport early Monday morning to fly home. We would have loved to schedule a photo shoot on Sunday after the show, but the weather was so hit and miss all week, we just gave up. And, truth be told, Sunday turned out to be the nicest day of the entire trip! Sometimes, life is about going with the flow and just rolling with the changes, and this year at GBATS, it was certainly required. The next Guilty By Association Truck Show is scheduled for September 2025. Stay tuned to 10-4 Magazine for more details as they become available.