WALCOTT, Iowa — With more than 100 exhibits, contests, food and fun, one might think the 2021 Walcott Truckers Jamboree is an overwhelming blowout party. Instead, it’s more like a family reunion, according to Heather DeBaillie, vice president of marketing for the Iowa 80 Group.
Hosted by the Iowa 80 Truckstop, the jamboree is a favorite for both the nation’s truckers and Iowa residents. This year’s event, scheduled for July 8-10, is a return to an in-person three-day event after the 2020 Jamboree was held online because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We liken it to a family reunion for truckers,” DeBaillie said. “If you think about the family reunions that you go to, there’s always food, and then somebody is always in charge of games, and people sit around and talk. We thought about those kinds of elements to make it fun and be kind of getting back together for a lot of drivers that make this their vacation every year.”
The Walcott Truckers Jamboree is like a family reunion, but with trade show and entertainment components. That means a firework display, live music and free admission. Although the truck show is geared toward truckers, there’s a free invitation — with free parking — for the general public to join in the celebration of trucking life.
“It serves all purposes,” DeBaillie said. “First and foremost, we want to celebrate drivers and the hard job they do. This is a party about them, but we also want to encourage local people to come because we want them to see trucks and drivers.”
Since its inception in 1979, the truck show has grown in both attendance and in participating trucks. In 2019, the event brought in nearly 43,000 people.
In the beginning, there was no Super Truck Beauty Contest or Trucker Olympics. There were no vendors or antique truck displays. It was just a simple gathering of local truck dealers, giving professional drivers a chance to get an up-close look at new semitrucks and to talk about the industry. No matter how plain the 1979 event may seem to today’s regular truck showgoers, the late Bill Moon, founder of both the Iowa 80 Truckstop and the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, centered it on his vision to appreciate the nation’s drivers. Despite the jamboree’s prosperity and the passing of the torch to a new generation of the Moon family, that vision hasn’t changed.
The vision also stayed strong when 2020’s Walcott Truckers Jamboree pivoted to a virtual format in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing an online voting system, the contests continued, with the familiar face (and voice) of Eric Harley of Red Eye Radio emceeing the event. A few local truck driving residents even brought their trucks out to the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum to video the interiors and exteriors.
This year, the Jamboree is back and in person with to celebrate its 42nd anniversary. Festivities will start at 10 a.m. July 8 and 9, and at 9 a.m. July 10. Each day’s activities will last until dark, with fireworks displays closing out the first two days of the jamboree.
Check out some of the most anticipated events of the Jamboree below.
Super Truck Beauty Contest
The Super Truck Beauty Contest is a display of about 80 trucks, although DeBaillie said they’ve had 100 trucks in a show before. Judged by 15 to 20 judges, the trucks are critiqued on their interior and exterior. Trucks must be registered on the Iowa 80 website (iowa80truckstop.com) or at the jamboree before participating. The trucks are in different classes based on the year of the truck, and there are 24 categories. Judges will review trucks for three hours beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 8. Awards for the show will be presented at 3 p.m. Saturday, July 10.
This year’s Trucker Olympics involve a tire roll, a coffee cup relay, a strap winding race, a truck pull and a water balloon toss. These events continue throughout the Jamboree to ensure every driver — as well as the public — has a chance to participate.
“It’s fun games you might play at a family reunion, but ‘truckified’ a little bit,” DeBaillie said with a laugh.
The events can involve being timed for speed or present unique challenges, such as going through an obstacle course without flipping a tire over. There’s also a “strong man” and “strong woman” competition in which participants attempt to pull an antique cement mixer weighing more than 12,000 pounds. Every participant receives a prize, but the competition is limited to CDL-holders.
The Trucker Olympics will be held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. July 8, from 11:30 am. to 1:30 p.m. July 9, and from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 10.
Trucker’s Best Friend Pet Contest
Although the Jamboree is primarily about truckers, there’s room for their pets to be recognized as well. The Trucker’s Best Friend Pet Contest will once again include categories for Best Dressed, Best Trick and Owner Look-A-Like.
“It’s fueled by the personality of the pets … these pets couldn’t be any cuter,” DeBaillie said. “There is the creativity of the owners for the best dressed, to see what they come up with — and how they dress up their pets is quite funny.”
Pets must be registered on the Iowa 80 website before entering. The pet contest will take place on the main stage at 10:30 a.m. July 9.
Pork Chop Cook-out
Prepared by the Iowa 80 Kitchen, the Iowa Pork Chop Cook-out includes a full dinner — a one-and-a-half-inch-thick pork chop with a baked potato, coleslaw, a roll and a drink. Pork chop sandwiches, grilled chicken and chips will also be available.
There’s plenty of time to grab a plate, as the cook-out will be open from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. A few food vendors may also serve lemonade and frozen drinks. Inside the Iowa 80 Truck Stop, fast food restaurants are available, such as Wendy’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen, Einstein Bagels, Caribou Coffee and Orange Julius.
No trucker party would be complete without live music, and the Walcott Truckers Jamboree has plenty to offer. Musicians will take the stage each day of the event. On Thursday, a local country group, Dani Lynn Howe & Band, will open for country music artist Casey Muessigmann, who competed on Season 3 of NBC’s “The Voice.”
An energetic local country band, North of 40, will open for the nationally known country music group Lonestar on Friday. Opening acts take the stage at 5 p.m., while the main acts will follow at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Mo’s Garage, which specializes in covers of ’70s and ’80s rock, will close out the music as they take the stage at 1 p.m. Saturday.
For more information about this year’s event, click here.
Hannah Butler is a lover of interesting people, places, photos and the written word. Butler is a former community newspaper reporter and editor for Arkansas Tech University’s student newspaper. Butler is currently finishing up her undergraduate print journalism degree and hopes to pursue higher education. Her work has been featured in at least nine different publications.