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Judging rigs at the TA Walcott Truckers Jamboree

By on July 3, 2012

If you’re in any way involved with trucking and have never been to the Truckers Jamboree, I strongly urge you to go. It’s at the TA Walcott in Iowa on July 12-13.

I’ve been attending for more than 25 years. The late Bill Moon started the Jamboree in 1979 as a way to say “thank you” to his loyal customers. The tradition continues under his wife, Carolyn, and their children, Will Moon and Delia Meier. For two days of activities and whatever time it takes for preparation, several acres of parking are taken over with tents, displays, show trucks, antique and classic trucks, and even a concert stage.

When I’m not involved in judging show trucks, I love wandering among antique and historic trucks and talking with their owners. The Moon family has long been involved with the American Truck Historical Society and the Iowa 80 Walcott TA boasts a museum on-site. Its nearly 20,000 square feet allows up to 45 trucks to be displayed at a time.

The judges circle

The competitors in the Super Truck Beauty Contest arrive days before the official start to clean and polish their rigs. Most go over their trucks as often as possible until the command, “Rags down!” is given.

Judges gather in the morning to get their assignments. We may be assigned to any of 12 specific classes, such as bobtail tractors 2008 to 2011, or tractor-trailers 1996 and older. Trophies are also awarded for themes, paint, murals and graphics, interior, and polish and detail work. Two of the most coveted are the Gary King Memorial Trophy named for the late founder of Trucker Buddy, and the Truckers Choice Award, selected by a vote of the contestants themselves.

We come from various fields in trucking, and at least two judges cover each class and category. There are Iowa DOT inspectors, who enjoy looking for attention to detail, creativity and craftsmanship rather than violations. Fleet drivers and recruiters enjoy judging because they get up close and personal with outstanding rigs that start with the same iron their fleets operate.

Except for specialty awards, judges evaluate each truck on its general appearance, cleanliness, painting and graphics, polish and attention to detail, interior and how well the truck carries through an overall theme. Themes can involve complex murals or can be as simple as the use of color to tie a tractor, trailer and interior together. Scores range from 1 to 5 and extra credit can be assigned for outstanding work. Extra points are awarded for high mileage on working trucks, while show trucks that have low mileage with minimal wear are judged in a separate class.

Night lights

Once score sheets are turned in, I get to roam the rest of the Jamboree. I enjoy seeing the old-time trucks and listening as their owners exchange memories. In the evening, I enjoy judging the Lights at Night competition. With one of the area’s largest fireworks displays as background, three of us evaluate bobtail, combination and specialty trucks, including tow and recovery vehicles. All we have to do at night is to get the three of us to agree on the top five trucks in each class. It sounds easy, but it often means going back to some trucks three times or more, making sure all the individual diodes are vertical or horizontal, or comparing areas of coverage.

While the judges get to enjoy the Jamboree the next day, staff members are feverishly totaling up scores, arranging trophies and preparing for the presentation of the Super Truck Contest Awards (Friday, July 13, at 4 p.m.). Following the Super Trucks, every antique truck is presented a participation plaque. Then it’s time for congratulations to the winners and farewells.

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