Wheel Jam 14 - Ready to roll

HURON — There are days right now that Scot Marone would probably like to have a couple more hands to answer phones.
But as this year’s Wheel Jam Truck Show is poised to begin, there are a multitude of details to button up before the big rigs begin rolling in this weekend.
“This will be the 14th Wheel Jam,” Marone said recently in his office as he put the finishing touches on some details for the three-day celebration of trucks and truckers. “We have always tried to have steady growth; not get too big too fast, but to still keep up with the trends each year.”
This year’s newest addition will be a free concert on Friday evening, featuring rising country singer Tony Justice. Leland Harding III and Family Tradition will open for Justice at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Although the focus is on 18-wheelers, all types of wheeled transportation will be on display throughout the weekend.
Marone, who hosts the event through his company, 18-Wheel Truck Promotions, said that things fell into place quickly to bring Justice, a popular performer among the drivers, to this year’s Wheel Jam.
“We reached out to him last year right after Wheel Jam concluded,” he said. “Tony was immediately interested in coming to Wheel Jam and it all worked out.”
Marone said that Justice plays many events similar to Wheel Jam and was familiar with the event through word of mouth.
Other events — the popular dynamic engine brake competition, the parade down Dakota Avenue, the Truck Show and the Show-n-Shine — will again be free to the public, thanks to a long list of sponsors.
“We have a wide range of sponsors who help make this all possible,” Marone said. “Tony Justice comes with a lot of his own sponsorship, but we have sponsors coming in literally from coast to coast and border to border.”
Marone said that realizing the need to bring in sponsors and vendors from outside the area has helped in keeping Wheel Jam fresh and growing. “Our local sponsors have been with us from the beginning and we are grateful for their support, but they are asked to contribute to so many things. Having some outside money come into the area keeps things fresh.”
“First and foremost, we need to do good for the drivers and make them happy,” Marone said.
For the drivers, the chance to reconnect with friends and fellow truckers, get their ride noticed by one of the national publications that will be on hand to cover the event, and to enjoy a little downtime with their family is important.
“It’s a very close-knit group that enjoys the camaraderie and the kind of reunion that takes place here every year,” he said.
They enjoy bringing their vehicles — from the older models right up to the newest innovations — to the non-judged truck show. “We had guy that found an old truck in a tree strip, got it running and brought it in. Guys really do see what everyone is driving. That’s one of the nice things. We see a wide range of vehicles and there is a lot of good conversation amongst the drivers. These guys all have ‘Pride in their Ride.’”
“Most of the vehicles that will be here — I would say probably 90 percent of them — are working every day,” Marone said. “Everything you can see that was put there by Mother Nature was trucked in from somewhere. Trucking touches everybody, every day.”
Marone also noted that this year’s dynamic engine braking competition will include something a little special.
“I’m not going to say what exactly we have planned,” Marone said, “but I will share that it will have a ‘Patriotic’ flair.”
The Wheel Jam Truck Show will take place on the South Dakota State Fairgrounds, with the truck show and concert set for the area south of the grandstand, near Younger Park and the Family Living Center.