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Big Trucks, Big Smiles
Everyone enjoys an automotive show. From the project cars to the fully restored, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Not all automotive shows and cruises are created equal. There’s always the one that stands out, makes a difference and makes memories attendees will not soon forget. The SD Convoy and Truck show is one of those shows that stands out against the rest. Not only do they have two shows being held on the same day on both sides of the state, they are also the world’s largest truck convoy; which hosted over 122 registered trucks at last year’s event. The greatest part of this particular automotive show and convoy is the amazing cause that they support: Special Olympics South Dakota. This is the first year the show is to be held in two separate locations on the same days. The W.H. Lyons Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls, SD will be hosting the event on the east side of the state and the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City will hold the event on the west end of the state. The event starts out with a Poker Tournament for participants on Friday, September 19. Following the Poker Tournament, there will be a light show for participants at the fairgrounds. On Saturday, September 20, is when the event really heats up. This is when the World’s Largest Truck Convoy gets to live up to its title. All registered trucks will line up for the convoy and parade through town in the two locations and show their support for the Special Olympics South Dakota to on-lookers throughout both cities. The greatest part of this convoy is the “choosing ceremony” where Special Olympics athletes have the option of choosing which truck they wish to ride in during the convoy. Loud air horns, laughter and smiling faces are familiar sights and sounds for onlookers of this convoy, as the athletes enjoy themselves on their trek through town. After the trucks return from their voyage, more events are planned for those attending with friends and family. The truck show starts in the afternoon along with the auction and raffle; of which proceeds are given to the Special Olympics South Dakota. There’s also a presentation of awards that are distributed for the trucks who participated in the many classes at the truck show. Not only can attendees see a completely different type of automotive show, they can also bear witness to a one-of-a-kind convoy and support a great local cause in the process.
Last year’s SD Convoy and Truck Show broke contribution records to the Special Olympics South Dakota. After raising over $45,000, they are setting their sights even higher this year, and hope to keep the upwards trend going for the years to come. All trucks that are registered help to support the local cause, and make the event an astounding success. Being as the Special Olympics South Dakota is a local independent non-profit organization, events like the SD Convoy and Truck Show are what really fund the programs for participating individuals. The organizations mission statement can help to understand exactly what contributors are helping to provide for. “The mission of Special Olympics South Dakota is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children (eight years and older) and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.” This concept of sharing gifts and inspiring others has a long history, stemming back from the 1960’s at a day camp started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Shriver started the organization in Chicago, IL at Soldier Field. The First International Special Olympic games were held in 1968. At these games, Shriver, ever the motivator, made a speech that instilled the drive to succeed in each athlete participating: “In ancient Rome, the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips: ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.’ Today, all of you young athletes are in the arena. Many of you will win, but even more important, I know you will be brave, and bring credit to your parents and to your country. Let us begin the Olympics.” In that same year, the 1st Annual Special Olympics South Dakota Summer Games were held. 125 athletes participated in the games in its first year. With the Special Olympics South Dakota’s motivation and inspiration as the driving force of this automotive event, it’s no surprise they are the largest truck convoy in the world.
The Special Olympics South Dakota has more than 2,000 participants in athletic programs. These athletes are driven to succeed regardless of physical, social, psychological and intellectual disabilities. With this motivation in athletic events, these participants can gain confidence that will help in their educational, home and community experiences and situations. Sports that athletes can participate in can range from Aquatics to Equestrian to Power Lifting. These events and competitions are unique as they can be accommodating to any athlete at any ability level. Participants are separated by divisions according to previous performances or preliminary heats. These divisions help to ensure athletes can have the greatest success at whichever event they choose to participate in. The Special Olympic South Dakota athletes train year round for their events. These athletes train in their local facilities, however, most athletes are located in Sioux Falls, Yankton, Watertown, Spearfish and Rapid City. The Sioux Falls athletes are split into three different teams, as this community has the largest number of athletes.
To help with donations to this local cause, this year’s event will host a live auction at the Sioux Falls Convoy and a silent auction at the Rapid City Convoy. These auction items have been donated to this event strictly to help raise funds for the Special Olympics South Dakota. This year’s auction items include an original painting and a print of the painting created and donated by artist David M. Porter and a set of Dynaflex chrome exhaust pipes from Stan’s Inc. of Alpena, SD. These pipes can be custom fit at 6”, 7” or 8” in diameter; whichever the winner desires. They can also be positioned as tall or short as the winner wishes, with any bend or cutoff wanted. These donated pipes will definitely make the winner the envy of other truck owners with a stunning exhaust exit thanks to Stan’s Inc.
Putting an event together such as this one is no small feat. There are many people who donate their time to make sure the SD Convoy and Truck Show go off without a hitch. One of these contributors who help to put this event together is Matt Wiekeraad. Wiekeraad helps to put the truck show together and loves being a part of the event. “It’s kind of a trucker’s reunion too. We all travel to different parts of the country, this is the one time of the year everybody is in the same place at the same time; which doesn’t happen very often. We get together and talk about what’s been going on in our lives and how the year has been.” Wiekeraad is no stranger to the road, as he travels all over the country in his truck. “I haul cattle all over the country, but make sure to haul more to the south during the colder months.” Wiekeraad will be bringing his truck to the show again this year; as he has been to every show since the beginning. Wiekeraad’s truck this year is 2014 Glider Kit Peterbilt. “It’s a brand new truck, but it doesn’t have a motor or transmission in it when you buy it. You find an older motor to overhaul and fix up to put in it. It’s the ultimate automotive recycling.” Wiekeraad’s Peterbilt has a 600hp C16 Caterpillar “big bad boy” engine with an 18-speed Eaton transmission and 336 rear end. The truck was special ordered with Dodge Viper Blue paint, but Wiekeraad wanted something custom for this truck. “I had the antique white and baby blue stripes put on at Peterbilt in Sioux Falls.” Although Wiekeraad doesn’t compete in the truck show, he has been issued awards for his truck at the SD Convoy and Truck Show. “I have won the participant’s choice a couple times with my truck, in the Best of Show: Lights Division.” Everyone who helps with the event or attends the event takes something away that inspires them and tugs at their heart strings. “There’s so many parts of the event that are my favorite. The fact that we are benefitting a local charity and the money stays with South Dakota athletes is one, and when the kids get to ride along on the convoy is another. During the half hour they are riding with me they are having fun blowing the horn and talking on the radio. It’s a riot!” It’s been said before, this is an event unlike any other. The truck show is no ordinary show either; even the classes participants can sign up for are unique. With classes ranging from Over a Million Miles to the Ugly Duckling class, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Wiekeraad tells us that those involved in the Ugly Duckling class go the extra mile or two to stand out. “We have guys who go all out for this class every year. They get crazy. They put oil all over the trucks and run them down a muddy road. Some even put flat tires on their truck at the show.” Other classes for the show include Tractor-Trailer Combination, Bobtail, Best Interior, and Best Motor to name a few.
Todd Bradwisch is the Torch Run Liaison for the Special Olympics South Dakota. Bradwisch helps to coordinate all events between the Special Olympics and local law enforcement. These law enforcement branches, such as the highway patrol, sheriff’s department, police department and weigh stations work together with the convoy committees to put on the SD Convoy and Truck Show. The SD Convoy and Truck Show is one of the largest donation contributors to the Special Olympics South Dakota. Bradwisch helps to coordinate the entire event each year. “As soon as the convoy is over, we take about a month break and then start getting things ready for the next year” Bradwisch said. This will be the 12th year the SD Convoy and Truck Show has been held in Sioux Falls. Although the donations are for local athletes, donations come in from around the country. “A majority of the donated items come from all over the United States. Donations have come from Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota, Tennessee, Virginia and Kansas just to list a few.” The trucking community is a large factor in making the event a success. With drivers keeping track of Special Olympics events going on country-wide, there are always the last minute registrants that make the SD Convoy and Truck Show special. “There are drivers who hear of the event as they are coming through town, will come in fully loaded and register for the event. When it’s over, they continue on their route. The support is awesome!” All drivers who are registered are noted on the SD Convoy and Truck Show t-shirts, and the event is hoping to have over 150 trucks registered this year. When asked what Bradwisch’s favorite part of this event was, he agreed with Wiekeraad’s choice. “The convoy itself is the greatest part. School Bus Inc. donates two school buses for the athletes who are unable to ride in one of the trucks for the convoy. This way everyone gets to be a part of the fun.”
This event is free to the public; the more the merrier. All who want to experience a convoy and truck show unlike any other are encouraged to come show the Special Olympics South Dakota your support. Not only are companies who sponsor the event, trucks who are registered, auction and raffle contributors able to make a contribution; anyone can help donate to the organization that helps inspire South Dakota’s brave Special Olympic athletes. Donations can be made by visiting the events website at sdconvoy.org, mailing donations to the state office or by faxing credit card information to the state office.
This year be a part of something that benefits a local cause and will be a unique experience. With something new going on each day of the event, and at two different locations, attendees are sure to have an unforgettable experience! The lights, sounds and smiling faces will make the trip to this event worthwhile. The great looking trucks will also be a huge draw; even if some do consider themselves “ugly ducklings.” The SD Convoy and Truck Show is one you won’t want to miss! TMM