Food vendors, merchandise sellers and bar operators alike spent Wednesday afternoon turning downtown Johnstown into a vibrant hub for the thousands of motorcycle riders expected to roll into the city for Thunder in the Valley.
Tents and trailers popped up at Central Park, the Train Station, Peoples Natural Gas Park and Biker Mall in preparation for the event that gets underway today.
Those vendors are an important part of the annual motorcycle rally. Some are small, locally owned businesses. Others are nationally recognized.
One of the biggest operations is the Broken Spoke Saloon, which first came to Thunder in the Valley last year.
“We’re thrilled to be back here,” said Robert Cappadona, Broken Spoke Saloon’s general manager. “The setup here is so much more exciting for us because we’ve done one year here. We’re coming in here with a really strong map and strong sense of what we need to do for this rally and what the guest experience is all about.”
This year, the pub will sell alcohol at three different locations. Broken Spoke Saloon also played an important role in getting southern rockers Molly Hatchet to come to town for a free concert on Saturday night.
“We’re starting to bring a little bit more of our signature stuff in here,” Cappadona said.
Broken Spoke Saloon is a familiar presence at biker events across the country, including the well-known Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Cappadona said Johnstown’s family atmosphere separates it from most of the other gatherings. “That’s something that’s really kind of unique and exciting for us,” Cappadona said.
Nicole Charbonneau, a worker with apparel seller Motorcycle Rally USA, concurred: “It’s beautiful here. ... Johnstown is more family-orientated. It’s not like real hard-core bikers, like Sturgis and others like that. It’s easygoing.”
Part of the family feeling is created by many local businessmen, such as Rob Crist, being involved. Crist is the franchiser of the recently founded Rob’s Rib Shots. One of his franchise operators, Charlie Cox, has a BBQ trailer located on Locust Street by Central Park.
“For me, it’s a lot of passion and being able to provide a good product, a good service for the Johnstown area,” Crist said. “It’s important to me.”
This is the first year Rob’s Rib Shots has been part of Thunder in the Valley.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.
Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.