There’s a big trucker party happening in eastern Iowa.
The 36th annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree kicked off Thursday morning and runs through Saturday. The event is happening at The World’s Largest Truck Stop located off of Interest 80 in Walcott, Iowa. Organizers at the truck stop are expecting upwards of 45,000 people over three days.
“We are having a party about everything trucking,” Iowa 80 Truck Stop Marketing Manager Heather DeBaillie said. “Whether you are a driver looking for a new job, or if you want to see some of the new things in the industry … we’ve got it all here.”
The big bash features truck-themed events including the Super Truck Beauty Contest, Antique Truck Display and more than 175 exhibits.
Super Truck Beauty Contest
The crowds were bustling Thursday morning as the show got underway, starting with the Super Truck Beauty Contest. People came from all over to show off their beautiful big rigs.Many of the trucks were recently redone from the inside-out and sported a custom paint jobs and flawless interiors.
Rod Jaeger has been coming to the Walcott Truckers Jamboree for 15 years. This year, he showed off a truck he rehabbed by hand.
“It’s a 1976 and I completely redid it. I went through the whole thing,” Jaeger explained. “Everything is pretty much new.”
Jaeger is in the trucking business and hauls large farm machinery and construction equipment for a living, but revamps rigs on the side. He loves to show off his work once the truck is complete.
“It’s neat to see people’s reactions to what you did,” he said.
Participants in the contest range from hobbyists to businessmen.
Dave and Dan Brown revitalize old trucks for a living. The twin brothers started their business DB Kustom Trucks about a year ago. The pair showed two finished trucks during this year’s Super Truck Beauty Contest.
The brothers take old trucks and completely gut them, installing new parts and mechanics, and then customize the paint and interior to the driver’s specifications. The pair revamp about 60 trucks per year, and this year it was a mad-dash to get one truck ready to go.
“Before the show we had nothing in the interior, like the day of,” Dave Brown said. “So, it was scrambling the last hour, getting up early in the morning and putting everything together.”
Antique Truck Display
For some attendees the Walcott Jamboree is all about history built on tradition.
Ohio resident Dave Schroyer makes the drive every year to experience and contribute to the Jamboree’s Antique Truck Display.
“It [antique truck collecting] is a disease,” Schroyer laughed. “It’s an expensive disease.”
Members of the Schroyer family have been coming to the annual jamboree since it started in 1979. The family is in the trucking business – mostly hauling hazardous materials, but is heavily involved with antique truck collecting on the side. Schroyer’s favorite part of the long weekend is seeing the vintage trucks.
“The old stuff is more our cup of tea,” he explained.
The same can be said for Iowa resident Larry Steve.
Sporting a button up, denim and cowboy hat, Steve stood proudly next to his bright blue, refurbished 1927 Mack truck. It was a massive undertaking to get the old truck to the beautiful place it is today.
“When we got it, it was a dump truck. Really, rough,” Steve explained. “The motor was stuck. The transmission bearings were all gone. It took my Dad and me five years to put it back together.”
Steve and his father were in the towing business together, so they also installed a wrecker on the back of the truck.
Steve has attended the jamboree annually for more than two decades and proudly keeps coming back.
“I get to visit with some of my buddies. It’s just a good time. People are great here,” he said.
Jim Peterson made the trip from Illinois to show off his 1947 Ford pickup truck. He bought an old farm truck that has been in his community about 30 years ago. It’s been a work in progress restoring it.
“I remember when I was a little kid a neighboring farmer had it, and before him another farmer in our area had it,” Peterson said. “It came up at auction and I bought it.”
Peterson’s father-in-law and brother-in-law did most of the body restoration. His in-laws have been coming to the Jamboree since its inception. Peterson started tagging along a few years ago as he approached retirement as a driver himself. He comes back each year to chat with the other truckers.
“Oh, just talking. Old stories, truck stories,” he laughed.
The Walcott Jamboree is held each year as a thank you to drivers and to celebrate the trucking industry as a whole. What started 36 years ago as a small party with a few hay bales and a cookout has turned into a huge bash featuring an Iowa pork chop cookout, two firework displays and two nights of live country music.
“Our goal for this is twofold: it’s to appreciate customers and truck drivers but also to expose the general public who maybe don’t know much about the trucking industry,” Marketing Manager Heather DeBaillie said. “It gives them a chance to come out, look at trucks up close and hopefully gain a better appreciation for what everybody does.”
On Thursday night, the truck stop featured Natalie Stovall & The Drive live on stage. Last year, the group was named as a must see act by Rolling Stone Country.
Friday night, The Josh Abbott Band will perform live as part of their ‘Where’s The Party Tour.’ Fireworks will light up the sky at dusk.
Admission is free and parking is free throughout the entire event.
“We just encourage everyone to come on out and have a good time,” DeBaillie said.
The 36th annual Walcott Truckers Jamboree will close at 5 p.m., Saturday July 11th.