The Dane Ballinger Memorial Truck Show – what a perfect way to spend your weekend. Sure, I could have stayed in Brisbane and sweltered in the heat and humidity while dancing between the lightning strikes and hailstones. But who would choose to do that when the sweltering sun was also shining on a racetrack packed with some of the coolest, definitely the shiniest, and arguably the cleanest trucks this country has to offer? I for one much preferred the latter option.
That’s why on November 18 , 2023 I found myself and my cameras getting a huge workout in the small country town of Bathurst, attending the Dane Ballinger Memorial Truck Show … again.
Obviously, this is not a new show to me and, hopefully, many of you will have read my summations of the past shows I have been to. Every time I attend this show I am blown away by nearly every facet of it and this year has been no exception. Every year this show finds new ways to evolve and new ways to impress.
The 2023 event saw the addition of a historic truck element and, although they may not have been endowed with the same level of stainless as the new trucks, they brought a whole new level of interest to a show already bursting at the seams with awesomeness. Is that a word? I’m not sure, if not then it should be, as it’s exactly what this small-town show is packed with. Awesomeness! And a damn mean mini donut food truck. But that’s not relevant to the story.
A little background on this country truck show as I tried to get beneath the carnauba wax that shines on this amazing event. In order to do that I needed a bit of time with the ladies from Designer Events – Debbie Campbell and Hayley Osbourne. Tracking these two ladies down was an extremely difficult task and required me to chase them around waiting for a break in their hectic schedules.
However, it’s not just the truck show that Designer Events is running. It is also the Christmas markets and a huge swap meet that takes place the day after the truck show. It is an extremely busy weekend on the Bathurst social calendar. I did manage to chat with the ladies though and got the rundown and a bit of a road map as to how we have landed here.
“What it was is the Christmas market has been running for about 23 years, and on a Sunday we always had a swap meet car and bike show,” Debbie Campbell explains. “And Hayley and I were saying we need something for the Sunday.”
Both Debbie and Hayley were already heavily involved in the transport industry. Debbie’s son Dean runs a couple of pretty tidy trucks himself (there’s a huge level of understatement in that sentence). If you don’t know the Campbell fleet, just look up ‘outstanding’ in the dictionary. They are simply stunning.
Hayley is married into the industry with her husband Lachlan. So when they looked for something to fill in the Saturday, they had the likes of Dane Ballinger and Dean Campbell recommending a truck show.
“Dane had been talking about a truck show in Bathurst for years,” Debbie continues. “He said we used to have one ages ago. So, when it was suggested, we just said, ‘Yeah, let’s do a truck show’.”
Hence, the inaugural show ran started 2016 with backing from the likes of Gilbert & Roach and Vawdry Trailers who, it is worth noting, are still major sponsors now. The show was an immediate success.
Then in September 2019 tragedy struck the town of Bathurst and the trucking industry as a whole. Dane Ballinger was killed on the road. The rural community really felt the loss of one of their own. When November rolled around it was decided to rename the event as the Dane Ballinger Memorial Truck Show.
As tough as it was to restage the event in the wake of the family and community’s loss, it was something everyone felt they needed to do for Dane.
“Dane’s thing was he always said we need the show as a way to get the boys all together to have time to talk,” Debbie says. “They need to talk about the industry, the struggles and themselves. It’s a camaraderie, bonding thing. That’s what he thought was really important.”
Along with the emotional and reflective side of the show, another thing that makes this event a little more unique is the fact that trailer combinations are involved. There’s everything from complete road train setups and heavy haulage combinations to elite-level tarp jobs and working stock trucks that somehow do not smell like working stock trucks.
Most trucks get staged up on Friday night, meaning swags and soft drinks are going all night as guys catch up and polish on until Saturday morning. It brings with it a great feeling of mateship to the whole weekend.
As mentioned, last year (with a little pushing from Hayley’s hubby Lachlan), there was the added contingent of historic trucks. “Lachlan loves the old gear, and we needed something a little bit different, and adding them just hit the nail on the head,” Hayley says.
It saw a total of 174 official entries, however with a few roll-ins on Saturday morning the display numbers were closer to 200. The unofficial estimate is around 10,000 people who came into the truck show and markets.
A big congratulations to Debbie and Hayley for their efforts, as well as a huge thankyou to their team behind the scenes who keep it all rolling. Also, massive credit must go to the judging team who judge such an elite level of competition, so I think the final shout-out needs to go to all those that entered.
The level of commitment shown by drivers and families to get these trucks, with the emphasis on working trucks, to such a high-quality standard is amazing. After long work hours, the passion is still there to shine up and show up. Thank you to all those who attended.
For more on the 2023 Dane Ballinger Memorial Truck Show, grab a copy of OwnerDriver’s January 2024 edition.