Waupun Truck N Show founder dies, leaves behind legacy of service

WAUPUN—Ron Vande Zande, a well-known community member and founder of the Waupun Truck-n-Show, died Monday.

The 78-year-old is noted in his obituary as “a man who dedicated his life to serving others and loving his family and friends. The Truck N Show is described as his passion.

The Truck-N-Show rolled into Waupun every summer for the past 32 years. The salute to the trucking industry draws crowds of people from across the United States and Canada, as well as local drivers and spectators, to Waupun.

Highlights of the weekend event include parades music and food.

“The Truck N Show is certainly one of our biggest summer events,” Waupun Mayor Julie Nickel said. “It is a celebration of the men, women and families who keep our country moving, supplying all of the needs and products that make our country great.”

Waupun City Administrator/Director of Economic Development Kathy Schlieve also has high praise for Vande Zande.

“He had transitioned away from a leadership role over the last couple of years, so there’s a committed group of volunteers that will continue the Truck N Show legacy,” she said. “But it shouldn’t go without notice the work that Ron put into helping get it all started and making it into what it is today. It does have a significant impact in that people come from afar to enjoy that event and it is a definite economic value to the community. He is going to be dearly missed because he was a pioneer in so many ways.”

Ron also served on the Waupun Fire Department for 46 years and retired as assistant fire chief.

In 2021, about 300 trucks were present both competing and on display. Vande Zande said at that time, “These are the same trucks that you see in the winter full of ice and salt. These are working trucks, shined and polished and looking like they just came off the showroom floor. These owners are proud of their rigs and make them look as beautiful as they can. They go all out. It really is something for people to see.”

Driving trucks was close to Vande Zande’s heart. While working on his family farm he began his self-employment journey by starting Vande Zande Livestock Trucking. He drove many miles for Jeff’s Trucking and W&D Navis prior to starting VZ’s Trucking, which he owned and operated from 1994 to 2019. After his retirement he enjoyed running short hauls for Smedema Trucking.

He was dedicated to supporting Special Olympics and Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was also an organizer for the annual Special Olympics Truck Convoy.