The late founder of the Walcott Truckers Jamboree would barely recognize the event he created 40 years ago at his Iowa 80 Truckstop.
Having grown into a three-day celebration many years ago, the annual jamboree that kicks off Thursday now draws in nearly 40,000 truckers, truck enthusiasts and curious visitors over the three-day run. The 2019 event will boast hundreds of new and antique trucks on display, a Super Truck Beauty Contest, live bands, fireworks and, of course, Iowa pork chops for all.
But what has not changed since the late Bill Moon began the event is the reason for it: to showcase the trucking industry to the public.
"It started as a celebration of trucking," said Delia Moon Meier, who is part of the family's second generation to run the truckstop.
When she moved into the company's leadership she found a quote of her father's describing the jamboree as "a celebration of drivers and our customers."
"We have kept that as our tagline and our goal," said Moon Meier, senior vice president of the Iowa 80 Truckstop. "Keeping that in mind, we don't get sideways on our purpose."
Not only will this year's celebration carry on the tradition, but it is extra special as it marks the 40th anniversary of the summertime festival.
Asked about the event's roots, Moon Meier said the trucking industry was a very different environment than it is today.
"In the 1970s, trucking was regulated, which meant it wasn't a job just anybody could get," she said, recalling how companies needed government authority to operate. "Only a limited amount had authority. So if you wanted to be a trucker, you had to sign on with one of these authorized companies."
Likewise, Moon Meier said seeing one of the big rigs was a rare sight and not the everyday occurrence it is on the nation's interstates or at the Iowa 80 Truckstop. Regularly, the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum staff hear visitors' stories of how excited people were when one of these trucks rolled down the road.
"People saw so few trucks that they would stop what they were doing and run out to see this new truck," she said, adding "We knew people by the truck they were driving, it was that spectacular."
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Her father, who died in 1992, wanted an event that would introduce the industry to others.
"Dad thought wouldn't it be neat if we got local truck dealers to bring out one of their new trucks so anybody who wanted to see them could see them," she said.
From that first year when six or eight truck dealers brought two or three new trucks in to show and another 22 antique trucks were on display, she said this week's show will feature about 120 new trucks and 250 to 350 antique trucks.
"The Walcott Trucker's Jamboree is truly an event about the professional driver," said Heather DeBaillie, Iowa 80 marketing vice president. "We appreciate the important job they do in keeping America rolling, and we think they should be celebrated."
She said there will be "fun for everyone" with the trucks, games, music, food and more.
The festivities will include a 100th birthday party at the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum for two of its trucks: a 1919 International Model F1 and a completely restored 1919 Pierce Arrow.
"The 1919 International is the first truck Bill Moon ever purchased," said Curator Dave Meier. "He kept the truck at his house under the carport. His kids played on it, and he drove it in many parades. It was the truck that started his love of collecting."
He added that it is the same model of truck that first climbed Pike's Peak. One of 1,591 such trucks produced, the model's top speed is 17 miles per hour.
In what Moon Meier called "a throwback event," a pet show among the drivers' pets will be part of the fun.
"You have to have a CDL to participate," she said. The contest will include a couple's 14-year-old dog, which was a 3-day-old puppy when they entered it in the contest the first time.
"You don't realize how interested people are in some event until you bring them back," she added.