Interesting to Know That:

  • A brat is a seasoned coarse-ground pork sausage of German origin.
  • They can be grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Some people like to parboil them in beer or wine before browning them on the grill to add a unique flavor.
  • Ralph F. and Alice Stayer started their family-owned bratwurst business in 1945 when they purchased a butcher shop named after their quaint hometown of Johnsonville, Wis.
  • Johnsonville offers tasty recipes, contests and free goodies at their website,
  • You can book the Big Taste Grill for your own event by calling (800) 382-6187. But be advised the grill needs to be booked eight months to a year in advance.

    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

    East Coast
    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.

    West Coast
    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.

    More Rolling Tours:

    It’s a Jungle in There
    Step inside this 53-footer, and you’re in a tropical rainforest

    Drive Like Mike
    Nike helps Jordan spread the love and merchandise

    The Show Goes On
    Shell Lubricants aims to educate and entertain with its new rolling exhibit, the Rotella Road Show

    For Fly-Boy Wannabes
    Navy jet fighter simulators help lure recruits

    A Well-Oiled Class Machine
    ChevronTexaco Global Lubricants’ Delo Truck is a classroom on wheels

    A Moving Experience
    Replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial allows millions to honor fallen heroes

    On Track Against Asthma
    NASCAR star helps promotedrug to fight chronic lung disease

  • The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
    Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2022 edition of Partners in Business.
    Partners in Business Issue Cover