The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Thunder in the Valley

June 27, 2010

Thunder officials, vendors say crowds may be largest yet

— With the biker mall in her backyard and a view of train station activities from her front door, one might think Margaret Barkley would dread having Thunder in the Valley bikers surround the home she has owned since 1968.

But it’s hard to find a bigger Thunder fan than the petite Washington Street woman.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Barkley said Sunday, watching bikers pass from her front door.

“These people have been really nice. Every year they get nicer.”

Barkley admits her friends can’t believe she puts up with the “racket” at night, but she says it doesn’t bother her.

 “I close the doors and go to bed,” Barkley said. “They are waiting patiently for me to complain, but I won’t do it.”

Bikers are nice here because Johnstown is a welcoming community, vendor Alexis Eisele of Ventura, Calif., said while packing away leather goods and clothing at her biker mall shop.

“The city that puts it on is very helpful,” Eisele said.

“What I really like here is law enforcement. They didn’t hassle the bikers here. We see that in other places.”

Although no official crowd estimates have been made available, Andrew Brogden said it seemed like the largest yet. The owner of Brogie’s Bikewear in Dale said the downtown crowds were surprising since the rally has expanded to include events in Ebensburg, Windber and Richland.

“Before, when everything was downtown, this was the place to be,” Brogden said. “Just wonder where the heck everybody sleeps.”

He heard some out-of-town bikers were taking rooms in Greensburg and State College because local hotels were booked.

And visitors were in a buying mood, he added.

“With the scare in the economy, things were not as good last year,” Brogden said. “Things are loosening up this year.”

Brogden was not the only one with positive reports, said Lisa Rager, executive director of Thunder-organizer Greater Johnstown-Cambria County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

“I am hearing lots of really good things from our vendors,” Rager said. “I hear attendance is really good at Richland and Windber. There certainly have been great crowds downtown.”

Sunday’s crowds are traditionally smaller as activities wind down and bikers start making their way home. A full slate of musical acts on the biker mall, train station and Central Park Gazebo stages kept the visitors entertained and serenaded vendors as they closed down booths. Others made the trip to Adams Township for the Beaverdale Hillclimb.

While music and other features are important, Thunder is about the camaraderie of sharing time with others, bikers interviewed said.

“I had a great time,” Jaime Grandl-Hess of Monkton, Md., said. “I met some people at Greenhouse Park. I’m seeing a lot of people I have not seen in a while.”

The former Johnstown resident comes back to Thunder in the Valley on her Harley-Davidson 883 Sportster.

“It is all about the crowds,” Jim Dunmyer of Somerset said. “And it’s getting a better crowd.”

“Bikers are a good group of people,” Mike Domineck of Solomon Run Road said. “Biker events are nice to go to.”


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