Randomness Follows Me…To the Truckers Jamboree

I’ve concluded that if my life were the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game, I would be the world champion. For I can go to almost any event on this earth and have a small world incident.

Such was the case at the Truckers Jamboree yesterday in Walcott, Iowa.

The Jamboree is an annual event at the “largest truck stop on earth”– the I-80 Truck Stop — and it’s a parking lot of state-fair-like activities. There are exhibitors. A truck beauty contest. A pet contest. A moon walk. Hot dogs. Balloons. And an oddly popular espresso shack. (I overheard one trucker raving about his almond latte.)

We were there with a camera crew to videotape contestants in the truck beauty contest about their trucks and their personal trucking story. And boy did we hear some very cool and interesting things! And boy did we make friends. (To the point that some of our victims were chasing us around the show to give us Busch Lights.)

I was the main interviewer, so imagine me standing right next to one of those big TV cameras on a tripod, with a sound guy off to the side holding one of those big fuzzy microphones above the interviewee on a long stick. And another person holding a silver reflector off to the other side. We made quite a stir, to say the least.

(And I may end up on TV. National Geographic was there with a crew filming for a show about truck beauty shows, and they wanted to capture that people were doing interviews.)

We covered a good 12-15 people over the course of the day (after hosting a focus group from 8:30-10:30), with two people going first truck to truck to gauge interest and set a time for the crew to come by. 

Mid-afternoon we came upon four trucks in a row belonging to the same small trucking company. Like many of the memorialized trucks we’d seen in the contest, these were dedicated to the memory of the owner’s son-in-law and granddaughter who had died in a car accident two years ago. There was a large foam-core poster leaning up against the chrome bumper of one of the trucks with a news article pasted to it about the accident.

As we started wiring the guys for sound, I read the article. It sounded familiar. Soon I realized I’d been to the benefit for the accident survivors two weeks after the accident happened.

Back in July of 2005, Mom, Dad and I had gone to help Brother DIY and Michelle pack up their house in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for a move to Kansas City. On tap for Saturday evening was this benefit, for the daughter of DIY’s co-worker, who was one of the family members that survived a terrible auto accident.

We headed out that evening to a country club outside a neighboring town for the festivities. Tons of people showed up. We had to park about a mile away from the place (which was a few miles outside of town), in the parking lot of a grain storage area. Then school buses shuttled us to the golf course clubhouse area. Once there, we grabbed our brisket and baked beans, chowed down, then moved out to the yard for the auction. The support was really incredible.

Back to yesterday. So once I figured this out, I asked the folks how they were related to the accident victims. Turns out the owner of the company was the father of the survivor, and the deceased son-in-law was supposed to become a partner in the company.

You should’ve seen these trucks. Big red Kenworths with lots of chrome. And all of them had a memorial message on the back of the cab.

The sister of the survivor was there, and she told how she was the one that had put the benefit together — and they brought in over $50,000 that evening.

All four interviews — the owner plus three drivers — were really touching. The father/19-year-old son team was particularly gut-wrenching. They truly live to drive for the owner of that company.

Now go grab a kleenex.

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