Interesting to Know That:
When trucker Dale Romens gets to his delivery stop, he sets up his grill, throws on an apron, grabs some tongs and begins grilling bratwurst. The practice might seem a bit unusual, even if the 35-year veteran of the road was a food fanatic. But you have to first consider Romens’ grill. It’s 45 feet long, six feet in diameter and can cook up to 750 brats at one time – or 2,500 brats an hour.
The grill is a converted tanker with glowing coals artwork along it’s lower half, and it opens like a barrel grill to reveal a fully contained outdoor cooking center that can feed thousands. The truck and trailer are part of Johnsonville Sausage’s marketing effort. Romens, who boasts nearly 3 million safe miles, drives his truck all over the eastern half of the United States, while another driver pilots an identical truck in the country’s western regions.
At a recent stop in Indianapolis for the Powerstroke Diesel 200, Romens grilled brats for NASCAR truck race fans. “This is a fun job,” he says, wiping the sweat off his brow. “We go anywhere they want us to go.
Josh Majewski, who works on the tour along with Romens, says the trucks go to about 180 events a year, including auto races, football games and the Kentucky Derby. Both men work for GMR Marketing, a company that operates more than a dozen such tours.
Dan Kieliszewski, vice president of mobile operations for GMR, says as many as 15 semis are on the road depending on the time of year. The exhibits range from fairly simple ones, like one the company manages for the International Truck and Engine Company, to extremely ambitious, like GMR’s Microsoft Xbox Odyssey tour.
“The Xbox system includes two semis that are parked parallel 50 feet apart,” Kieliszewski says. “An inflatable dome spans the gap between them, creating a 50 by 70-foot enclosed gaming environment.”
Xbox Odyssey includes 52 gaming stations, some of which are built into the trailers and fold down. “It’s as close to a rock show as you can get without the elaborate set up. Xbox takes only a day or two to set up – not a week, like a big concert.”
Odyssey becomes a two-level game park complete with VIP lounge, DJ stand and overhead video screens.
Veteran trucker Dale Romens gets to show off both his driving and grilling skills at Johnsonville’s Big Taste Grill.
Companies like Microsoft and Johnsonville contract for such marketing efforts because they give the companies direct contact with their customers, usually in an entertaining, event-oriented environment. Such tours take as long as two years to put together. Getting a unit on the road can take 90 to 120 days once planning is complete and a contract is signed, Kieliszewski says.
The company uses different manufacturers to build the units, employing trailer manufacturers and kiosk builders. And it provides the drivers, trucks, support personnel and chase vehicles in most cases.
Sometimes an exhibit takes longer to put together. In the case of the Xbox tour, the inflatable dome took six months alone to create. The truck is now on its third year and still doing well, Kieliszewski says.
The rolling tours go to venues that are appropriate. For example, Xbox Odyssey will go where the demographics are young and male, while a tour for Maytag might go to more women’s shows.
The Johnsonville Brats truck, known as the Big Taste Grill, can even be hired for private events. It opens off tractor air and features a sink and refrigerator unit. When Romens arrives at a site, he’ll fire up the propane-powered grill, but ultimately it is turned over to a local charity group, which cooks and sells the brats and take home any profits from sales. For Johnsonville, the tour is about introducing people to their brats or giving them to people who haven’t had them in a while.
Kieliszewski says such tours require extremely safe drivers who can interact with the public. They also must be willing to spend more time away from home than typical truckers. “They get to travel whether they like it or not,” he says.
Dale Romens prefers the grill to his other hauls. He only puts 40,000 to 50,000 miles on the truck a year. He also gets a lot of attention from other drivers. “I get a lot of thumbs up,” he says. “And a few drivers will joke about it. They say, ‘I’ll find a beer truck if you can pull over at the next exit.'”
Xbox Odyssey Schedule
Oct. 1-4 Kern County Fair, Bakersfield, Calif.
Oct. 16-26 Pensacola Interstate Fair, Pensacola, Fla.
Oct. 31 – Nov. 8 National Peanut Festival, Dothan, Ala.
Big Taste Grill Schedule
Oct. 4 Youngstown State football, Youngstown, Ohio
Oct. 5 Pittsburgh Steelers football, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Oct. 11 University of Akron football, Akron, Ohio
Oct. 12 Cleveland Browns football, Cleveland
Oct. 18 Ohio State football, Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 25 Indiana State football, Terra Haute, Ind.
Oct. 26 Indianapolis Colts, Indianapolis, Ind.
Nov. 1 Michigan State football, East Lansing, Mich.
Nov. 9 Tennessee Titans football, Nashville, Tenn.
Nov. 15 South Carolina football, Columbia, S.C.
Nov. 22 University of Alabama vs. Auburn University football, Auburn, Ala.
Nov. 30 Jacksonville Jaguars football, Jacksonville, Fla.
Dec. 6 Southeastern Conference Championship, Atlanta
Dec. 7 Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta
Dec. 11-12 Natchitoches Christmas Festival, Natchitoches, La.
Dec. 15 Miami Dolphins football, Miami
Dec. 21 Jacksonville Jaguars football, Jacksonville, Fla.
Oct. 1 Apple Market, Kansas City
Oct. 2 Thunderfest, Kansas City
Oct. 3-4 American Royal, Kansas City
Oct. 5 Kansas City Chiefs football, Kansas City
Oct. 11 Illinois football, Champaign, Ill.
Oct. 13 St. Louis Rams football, St. Louis
Oct. 20 Oakland Raiders Football, Oakland, Calif.
Oct. 25 Edwards Air Show, Edwards, Calif.
Oct. 27 San Diego Chargers football, San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 3 Denver Broncos football, Denver
Nov. 10 Green Bay Packers football, Green Bay, Wisc.
Nov. 17 San Francisco 49ers football, San Fancisco
Nov. 27 Dallas Cowboys football, Dallas
Dec. 5-7 Tempe Festival of the Arts, Tempe, Ariz.
Dec. 12-14 Tucson Winter Fair, Tucson, Ariz.
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