Why are people making such a big deal about a truck show?
This thought ran through my mind as stood in line at the Walmart Supercenter, listening to the people in front of me talking to the cashier about their plans to attend the Guilty by Association Truck Show (GBATS). Sure, I’d seen and heard advertisements for this event around town, but I hadn’t given it much thought – until I kept crossing paths with people talking about it, and the buzz became so deafening that I knew I had to check it out for myself.
It turns out that this truck show is a really, really big deal.
One of the world’s longest truck convoys is part of the GBATS two-day event. Each year, this convoy (bobtails only) begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening at 4 State Trucks, located on Highway 43 just off of I-44 near the Joplin 44 Petro. It then travels north to downtown Joplin, where approximately 400 drivers will park their trucks, turn on their lights, and enjoy an evening of camaraderie with their fellow drivers at a party on Main Street.
Some advice to anyone trying to drive across town on the night of the convoy: get to where you need to go before the convoy begins. Better yet, pack a folding chair and watch the convoy yourself. That’s what we did.
It’s incredible how quickly the number of trucks participating in the convoy has grown over the years. In 2010, the first year of the event, there were 17 trucks; in 2015, there were more than 370!
Why do drivers participate in this convoy? The main reason is because the money raised from it goes to Special Olympics Missouri’s program for sports training program and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In recent years, the convoy has raised over $70,000 for this cause.
Plus, 40 drivers have the privilege of having a Special Olympian riding along with them in the convoy.
Participating in the convoy is also a fun way for drivers to proudly show off their working trucks, their homes on the road. And some of these homes are pretty fancy.
The convoy we saw arrived in downtown Joplin just as the sun set behind the century-old brick buildings. Drivers turned on their truck lights and Main Street transformed into an enchanted parking lot.
Seeing these trucks reminded me of looking at houses around the holidays; during the day they appeared appropriately festive, but at night, they looked completely different, magical.
The parked trucks provided an impressive backdrop for the street party, which was a family-friendly event. There were food vendors and musical performances from bands like South of Vertical and Tony Justice.
This was just the downtown portion of the GBATS. There were a variety of activities going on in south Joplin at 4 State Trucks all day Friday and Saturday (prior to the convoy) including an open house, a swap meet, big rig burnouts, a motorcycle stunt rider show, and semi truck and trailer pulls.
Keeping with the family-friendly theme, there were also food vendors and children’s activities, plus a fireworks display to end the Friday night festivities.
There’s a lot to see and do during the GBATS two-day event. I now understand why I heard so many people talking about it.
For more information on GBATS, click here.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.