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OES Students Meet Iconic, Local Monster Jam Driver

Children at the Oskaloosa Elementary School got an opportunity to meet with a special guest on Thursday morning.

Tyler Menninga is an Oskaloosa native who went through the Oskaloosa school system just a few years ago. Menninga is now 20 years old and is a driver for one of the most iconic names in Monster Jam: Grave Digger.

Being one of only nine drivers with Grave Digger, Menninga knew at a very young age that driving a monster truck was what he wanted to do. Speaking to children of all ages at the elementary school, Menninga shared his story about having a dream and vision.

He asked students one simple question: What do you want to do? Answers from students varied from doctor to gymnast, bunny tamer to nurses and even the occasional ‘I don’t know’.

“School taught me a lot about striving for my goals. If I wanted something, I was going to go get it,” said Menninga. “That’s what hard work will teach you.”

Menninga was accompanied by his mother and grandmother who shared stories of when Tyler was growing. When he was a young boy, possibly 2 or 3, he sat in the nosebleeds at Monster Jam with his grandfather and watch the guys work below. Tyler used to piece together ramps and jumps in his grandmother’s home using couch cushions and pillows. As Tyler dragged a backpack stuffed with monster cars that he would play with – noises and all – according to his mother and grandmother.

Menninga’s late grandfather seemed to have a passion for monster trucks that transferred over to him. “When he was a little boy, he said he was going to be a monster truck driver. He was saying that since he could talk,” said his mother and grandmother.

Growing up, Menninga really only drove All Terrain Vehicles and did off-road racing. Menninga went to work for Adam, Dennis’s son, on Grave Digger while he was still in high school. He didn’t get his start on Grave Digger, however, he actually drove Blue Thunder at the beginning of his career. Menninga is coined as the youngest Grave Digger driver… ever.

Menninga loves competing in the freestyle events “because we can go out there for a whole minute and do whatever we want.”

The tour that Menninga is currently a part of has been to Mexico City, Mexico and Peoria, Illionis already. After their weekend in Cedar Rapids, Menninga and Team Digger will head to Puerto Rico, Jackson, Miss., and Macon, GA.

Puerto Rico is a stop Menninga is by far his favorite. But what about a country this Grave Digger driver would love to freestyle in? Menninga says Australia because the tour is a month long and the team doesn’t have to go home between shows.

Grave Digger is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, as is Dennis Anderson. The ‘Father’ of Grave Digger.

“Guys, come check it out in Cedar Rapids,” said Menninga. “It’s going to be a good show!”

Oskaloosa Native Returns for Weekend Festivities

An Oskaloosa native is returning back to the city for festivities this weekend. Steve Bell grew up in Oskaloosa and was an Oskaloosa graduate in 1954. From there he went on to Central College for his undergraduate studies. Bell went on to Northwestern University where he earned his master’s degree in Journalism.

Bell began his early career in Omaha, Nebraska working for WOW-TV when he was assigned the story when President John F. Kennedy was shot. Four years later, Bell was sent to New Jersey to start his career with ABC News covering the long hot summer; which was filled with riots and protests from racial tensions and high unemployment. He was a correspondent for ABC News for nearly two decades and covered events during the Vietnam War in Southeast Asia. He went on to work for ‘Good Morning America’ for 11 years and eventually evolved into a news anchor. Moving to Philadelphia in 1986 to co-anchor evening newscasts for KYW-TV.

After Bell’s career in news, he went on to teach telecommunications in 1992 at Ball State University in Indiana
Making his appearance Thursday night, Bell will be in attendance of the Oskaloosa City Band performance. Reminiscing of the time when he once played for the same band, nearly 60 years ago.

Along with the events on Thursday night, Steve Bell will also be participating in Christmas in July on Saturday, July 15 for the Reception in the Alley from 3 PM to 5 PM.

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