The Extreme Monster Truck Nationals have found a new home in Statesboro, thanks to the collaborative efforts of two local leaders and the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro.
The show’s promoter, Jim Morris of Oklahoma, has always held the show at the Oglethorpe Speedway in Pooler. He was set to host the 2022 show there in May. But in the fall of 2021, after more than 70 years of dirt track racing – many of those hosting the monster truck show – the speedway closed for good.
That left Morris with a show and no place to have it.
The Kiwanis Club of Savannah initially agreed to host the event instead, but issues arose there, as well. Around that same time, connections were being made at the Kiwanis annual state convention in Perry.
After the meeting, Kiwanis leaders from Savannah reached out to Statesboro’s Tyrone Willis. Willis owns and operates the Kickback Shack food truck, and they invited him to their fair in Savannah. They also introduced him to Jim Morris, and that’s when the monster truck wheels began turning.
Willis often works events alongside Missy Nelson, who owns Wavee Shavee Ice, so he reached out to her, as well. Together, the two suggested to Morris that he bring the monster truck show to Statesboro.
“I told Jim, ‘I think you’ll be surprised at the people that will come,’” Nelson said. She explained to him that it would attract not only people from Statesboro but also surrounding counties.
A win-win location
Once Morris was sold on the idea, Willis and Nelson started brainstorming on a location. The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds immediately came to mind, and they got in touch with their existing contacts in the club.
“Missy reached out and told me about the interest in using our fairgrounds for the monster truck show,” Lisa Turner of Statesboro Kiwanis said. “Some of the club members had been throwing around the idea [of a monster truck show] for a couple of years now, so it just seemed like the right time. Things moved quickly and just fell in place.”
Nelson and Willis contacted Kiwanis on a Thursday, and by Monday, they were meeting and starting to get permits in line.
This was a perfect opportunity not only for Morris and his show but also for our local Kiwanis Club.
“Kiwanis wants to utilize the fairgrounds more to bring opportunities for families to come together for safe, entertaining events,” current Kiwanis president John Banter said. “The monster truck show is one of several events club members have brought forward to better use the facilities we have available.”
A new home in Statesboro
Thanks to the hard work of Willis, Nelson, and Kiwanis, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds hosted the inaugural Extreme Monster Truck Nationals the weekend of July 8-10, 2022.
While the weekend was especially rainy, thousands came out to enjoy the shows Saturday and Sunday. (Friday night’s show was rained out completely.)
“The rain didn’t seem to dampen spirits, and we are so glad everyone came out and had a great time,” Turner said.
When Willis spoke to Morris about hosting the show in Statesboro, he did make one thing clear. If the trucks came to Statesboro this year, they could never go back to Chatham County.
“I used to live in Savannah, but now I’m a Bulloch County resident,” Willis said. “And that’s where I want the tax dollars to stay.”
Not only will this annual show now bring entertainment and revenue to Statesboro and Bulloch County, but it may also lead to more events down the line for our community. Morris promotes a variety of entertainment types, including concerts, and is interested in doing more here.
“We’re excited Jim wants to bring some other events to Statesboro, as well,” Nelson said. “I think it’ll be great.”
New opportunities like these will also allow Kiwanis to continue serving the children in our area throughout the year.
“Our traditional events like the fair and rodeo have allowed the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro to give back in large ways to support the children of our region,” Banter said. “These new events don’t always take the same number of volunteers, but there are always Kiwanis members working to upkeep the grounds. It takes the entire club working together to be able to do the things we are able to do for our community.”
First year a success – with room to grow
As with any first-year event, there were challenges and logistics to overcome, including trucking in dirt for the show. But Willis saw the potential in bringing the show to Statesboro and did what he needed to do to get it here.
“Tyrone was very instrumental in making sure the first show went smoothly,” Nelson said.
Still, he is humble about his efforts and is already planning for next year.
“I need the community to know it was our first time – with lots of trial and error,” he said. “Next time, everything will be in place ahead of time, and we’re tweaking it to make it better for upcoming years.”
Next year’s show will be earlier in the spring, hopefully lending cooler weather for spectators. While dates are not yet finalized, it will most likely be in late April. Willis also said they hope to make the next event more kid-friendly, with a small carnival-type event before the show. And, of course, the food trucks will be back.
“Moving forward, look for the show to be much bigger and nicer for everyone,” he said. “It will be a great opportunity for families and friends to get together.”
“What are you doing about it?”
Willis and Nelson, along with their contacts at Kiwanis, are excellent examples of what happens when local leaders step up and put in the work to get things done for our community.
After several years of uncertainty due to COVID-19, Willis and Nelson saw this as an opportunity to bring people together in a safe and fun environment. They hope it will continue to provide that for many years to come.
“Everybody is trying to bounce back from COVID, and we wanted to allow families to come together and be out doing something positive,” Willis said. “We’re putting the work in to bring something positive to the community.”
All of this a testament to the philosophy Willis applies to everything he does, and Statesboro is a better community because of it.
“People like to complain,” he said. “But my question to them is always, ‘What are you doing about it, other than complaining?’ Let’s not just talk about it. Let’s come together and find solutions. Let’s work together and solve it.”