The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 15, 2013

Some events break away from Thunder

— Thunder in the Valley organizers have always been happy to share the annual motorcycle rally’s benefits.

Over the past 12 years, Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau worked with community boosters in Ebensburg, Windber, Richland and Nanty Glo, planting new Thunder-affiliated events in each location.

This year, three of the events have decided to cut the Thunder apron strings and step out as independent motorcycle events.

Organizers of Richland Bike Bash, Nanty Glo Pool ‘n Pork and Ebensburg Wheels and Wings say they were looking for a little independence and some flexibility in fundraising.

“It was a business decision,” said Chief Todd Shaffer of Richland Township Fire Department. “We had no problem with Thunder in the Valley. We wanted the opportunity to offer different kinds of beverages.”

Richland Bike Bash found that opportunity through a sponsorship by Inco Beverage Inc., 147 Allison Drive.

But the decision meant separating from Thunder.

Von’s United Beverage Co. of 675 Galleria Drive Extension and Budweiser are Thunder’s big sponsors, said visitors bureau Executive Director Lisa M. Rager.

“Any event that would be promoted as being a major Thunder event, it is required that they include Von’s United Beverage and Budweiser,” Rager said.

Ebensburg’s event organizers are thinking locally, said Ron Springer, president of Dauntless Fire Company.

The volunteer fire company runs the beer tent at Wheels and Wings as a fundraiser. The organization wanted to support Ebensburg area businesses.

“We have to be community-minded,” Springer said. “Our hometown is first. This year, we opted to strike a deal that benefits us and our community.”

Windber Rumbles remains affiliated with Thunder in the Valley and is listed in the official program and schedule. Windber Volunteer Fire Company runs the beer tent at Windber Rumbles.

“We have a little bit different sponsorship agreement with the visitors bureau,” Windber’s assistant chief, Bob Haddad, said. “We don’t have a per se mandate.”

Fire company leaders discussed the pros and cons of separating from Thunder, but opted to continue the partnership this year, he said.

“It is like any business agreement,” Haddad said. “We have to look at what it costs to be part of the program, and the cost of the additional advertising to go on our own.”

The problem, Rager said, is that major sponsorships allow Thunder to offer the big name entertainers and attractions that bring motorcyclists to the city in the first place. The satellite events thrive from the strategic mass of bikerdom centered in Johnstown.

“We would hope that everybody who benefits from the rally would be supportive of those events and activities that allow us to continue the rally from year to year,” Rager said.

Von’s is an important part of Thunder, she added.

“Working with Von’s has been great,” Rager said. “They have been great supporters of this event since the day we started.”

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