The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 25, 2013

It was a roaring good time

Thunder attendance a ‘record-breaker’

— So many people. So many motorcycles. So much frolicking. And so little trouble.

Throw in four beautiful, sun-filled days and it was, arguably, the most perfect Thunder in the Valley yet.

Organizers in Johnstown, Richland, Windber, Ebensburg and Nanty Glo all were gushing praise in the aftermath of this past weekend’s rally and related events. So were most of those in attendance.

Way to go, Johnstown region. Way to go, bikers.

We can’t imagine another community welcoming more than 200,000 motorcyclists and bike enthusiasts with so few major problems and glitches resulting.

“It appears we had a record-breaking Thunder,” Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Lisa Rager told our David Hurst in the waning hours Sunday afternoon.

She dubbed the rally a “phenomenal success.”

Thanks in great part to Rager and her small-but-hardworking staff, the events’ generous financial sponsors and the CVB’s large volunteer-worker base.

Rager and Johnstown police Sgt. Pat Goggin agreed Thunder went off with relatively few serious incidents, including traffic accidents and arrests.

For anyone looking for a comparison on behavior, note that police in Pittsburgh said 73 people were arrested or cited inside and outside Heinz Field in connection with Saturday night’s concert by country star Kenny Chesney.

Credit the CVB for its mission of keeping Thunder a family-friendly rally.

To the casual observer, it’s obvious that as rally numbers have grown over the  16-year history, so has participation by non-biker dads and moms and their young children, lured by nonstop music, food, vendors and the  chromed-out motorcycles.

For four days, our region was a beehive of activity, with many of our shop, restaurant and gas station operators welcoming a much-needed boost in business.

Out-of-town vendors we talked to said they weren’t flush with shoppers making purchases, but most agreed the spending was commensurate with other rallies they’ve worked this year.

“It’s about what I expected. The economy is having an effect,” said Michael Angelo of Bucks County, who was selling titanium-framed sunglasses from his tent at Zepka Harley-Davidson in Richland Township.

“I’ve been to Daytona, Americade (New York) and Laconia (New Hampshire) and spending and attendance are down from past years.”

Taking place across the region were Thunder in the Valley, Richland’s Biker Bash, Windber Rumbles, Ebensburg’s Wheels & Wings and the Nanty Glo Pool ’n Pork.

By Monday afternoon, few signs remained in downtown Johnstown that a large event left town just hours earlier.

City workers and volunteer crews did a yeoman’s job of cleaning up.

We agree with Jeff Blough of Davidsville, who wrote to our Readers’ Forum, “Hats off to another year of great times and fantastic music. I would like to thank all the people who give their time to put on such a wonderful weekend, especially the convention and visitors bureau who initiate all the activities which take place in Johnstown. This is a good rally with great music and you can’t beat the price (free) ... Keep up the great work.”                                                

If you stayed away from the activities throughout our region, we hope it was by choice rather than by oversight.

But don’t get too comfortable. The AAABA Tournament and AmeriServ Flood City Music Festival are just six weeks off.   

There’s always plenty to do in our region. Don’t you agree?

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