The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 19, 2013

Richland event gets head start

Randy Griffith
rgriffith@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Hundreds of motorcyclists and others got a head start on Thunder in the Valley on Wednesday evening with Richland Bike Bash.

This marks the first year that the Richland Township Fire Department-sponsored Bike Bash is not an official part of Thunder, but leaders say the break did not seem to hurt the opening night.

“It has been fantastic,” Richland Lt. Rob Hudson said at the event. “This has been possibly our busiest Wednesday night ever.”

By going on its own, Bike Bash was able to recruit a specific mix of vendors tailored to the traditional Richland crowd, Hudson said.

“We went out and sought vendors that work best with our customers,” he said. “We provide a very diverse group of vendors. We really know our crowd.”

Many were return visitors, including John Shonis and Lance Hayman of the Bloomsburg area near Wilkes- Barre. But the two bikers weren’t in any hurry to find the beer tent or the outdoor stage. They meandered their way through the mass of parked motorcycles, checking out each machine.

“It’s like a rolling form of art,” Hayman said. “Everybody has their own personalized design.”

“It’s a personal expression,” Shonis said.

Riders included locals, such as Karlee Sabol and Jim Yarina of Richland, who come every year for to party and ride with other bikers.

Others traveled some distance, including Hollsopple native Scott Hay of Woodbridge, Va., outside Washington. This will be Hay’s first Thunder in the Valley.

“I took a week’s vacation,” Hay said. “It’s good to see the hometown doing big things.”

Hay said he likes bike rallies but admits, “This is my first big one.”

Wednesday’s opening night entertainment featured Full Kilt and the Michael O’Brian Band keeping the crowd involved with their signature blend of Celtic and rock music, laced with audience participation and comedy.

Richland Bike Bash continues through Saturday, with Pivot taking the stage from 8 to 11 p.m. today.

Meanwhile the official Thunder in the Valley activities kick off today in downtown Johnstown.

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