GBATS is the premier driver-focused show in the nation that featured a family friendly, inescapably fun atmosphere, with a vibe to match the fantastic weather. 

The show hit off with a test of American Iron at the 11th annual Guilty By Association Truck Show (GBATS). Announcers were suspended fifteen feet over the event, in a cherry red cab converted for the event. They bowed their heads to begin the Drag Races with a prayer and a spirited showing of the American flag carried by horsemen across the field. 

But the mood abruptly changed as they began razzing drivers that had come to show off their skills amidst the Saharan dust storms their tires created. The crowd didn’t mind: Kenworths and Peterbilts sprayed dirt at a cheering crowd as they competed in Drag Races, “We’re drag racing on 300 feet and the end is like a war zone.”

Perhaps the crowd favorite for the entire GBATS event though was the Burnout: molten rubber sprayed cameramen daring enough to sprint along with the unpredictable rigs, as their drivers made their tires scream and billow smoke. 

And this year’s tractor pull and stunt show enjoyed a jostling popularity– staff stood on top of boulder sized cement blocks shouting that the event was sold out. The crowd that was able to secure a ticket was not disappointed: stunt motorcycle performers rocketed over a rig that was decorated in support of those on the Autism spectrum. Their riders’ performed an aggressively beautiful sort of ballet mid-air, with some of the most technical stunts in motocross sports. Later, rigs and tractors strained and smoked to show off their horsepower in the tractor-pull.

The convoy was a joyful cavalry rolling through the byways of Joplin. The 800 strong cavalcade of truckers was audible from miles away: the largest convoy in the world heralded itself with booming horns that echoed in the low Missouri hills they were waving over. 

This year’s GBATS convoy was some of the best of what it means to be a trucker– the fellowship that is part of being a brotherhood, with hundreds of excited children lining the streets and pumping their arms for horns that were already rhythmically calling back and forth to each other.

As the trucks rolled in, dozens of volunteers in vests in shades of highlighter, waved drivers into  position for the light show. They sprinted through the hundreds of trucks, using light sticks like they were guiding Bombers and Boeings into position.

Seasoned drivers stood on top of their trucks to film and see the spectacle, while a pair of young drivers stood next to their 1972 White Freightliner– they were dressed in 70’s era clothes that matched their truck, and they glowed that it was a family rig and that they couldn’t imagine any better cause then the Special Olympics fundraiser that the convoy was being hosted to support. 

The event raised over $149,000 toward the cause, with each participating driver contributing $100 to help athletes with special needs.

As dusk fell around the hundreds upon hundreds of trucks, a gorgeous pink-gold sunset frosted the rigs that drivers began lighting up in every shade of amber, emerald, and electric blue and illuminated the American flags standing out from their cabs.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience this show, then mark your calendar for a spectacularly fun event returning Fall of 2023.

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