The saga of Hank's Jamboree began in a small county park near Ottawa, Illinois, back in 1988. That was the year four-wheel-drive enthusiast Hank Walsh held the first-ever event that bears his name. The event defined "grassroots." The one-day event sported a display of trucks, a few vendors, and a couple of competitions. People loved it. By 1991 the event had outgrown the park, so it was moved to the more spacious acreage of a local marina. It was there that the event gathered steam in a big way. In addition to the truck show, Hank added a full spectrum of racing as well as nightly entertainment. The event was also expanded to encompass two full days. With a full head of steam, the event continued to grow, eventually forcing a move to the even larger Tri-County Fairgrounds in Mendota, Illinois, which is where it was held last year when we paid a visit.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, bad weather reared its ugly head. It rained relentlessly for three days prior to the event and during most of the event. It was reported that the area got 9 inches of rain before it was all said and done. On top of that, temperatures plummeted, making it feel very un-August-like. Ultimately, the deluge caused such significant flooding in the area that several counties had to be declared disaster areas.
As you can imagine, this had a devastating effect on the event. To give you an example, in 2006 there were 300 trucks in the truck show. Last year there were but a handful. There were only 40 trucks entered in the truck pull last year compared to nearly 100 the previous year. As a matter of fact, it took a gargantuan effort just to have the truck pull because of all the rain and mud. The fairground's infield was so soupy that aside from a few test runs, Hank couldn't even hold his legendary off-the-hook tough-truck competition. Many of the competitions had to be canceled. The crappy weather also hurt spectator counts, which were down by 50 percent.
There were bright spots, however. Mud bog competitors were up by 50 percent over the previous year. Go figure. Due to a tremendous effort on the part of many people, the show went on both days and the stands were filled with far more people than one would've imagined, considering the conditions. Not only that, but the crowd was wildly enthusiastic.
Hank's Jamboree is spooling up for their '08 show, which is taking place rain or shine August 16-17. This year the event has relocated to the LaSalle Speedway in LaSalle, Illinois. On tap is a truck show, four classes of truck pulls, five classes of mud bogs, truck and ATV dirt drags, a burnout contest, back-to-back pulls, monster truck racing, tough truck racing, and much more. For more information call 815/434-4077, or visit www.hanks4x4.com.