Eleven-year-old Nikki Kot and her family helped to kick off the start of Thunder in the Valley on Wednesday evening at the Richland Township Fire Department grounds on Scalp Avenue.
Thunder in the Valley formally starts at 9 a.m. today.
The Kots, of the Johnstown area, were among a crowd of about 1,500 people that was anticipated for the event.
“I like the funnel cakes the best,” Nikki said about all Thunder events, adding that she also likes to look at the motorcycles, listen to the music and jump on the bungee ride at the Richland event.
Her mother, Rhonda, said she and her husband, Jeff, and their two children attend a number of Thunder events every year.
“My husband just got a Harley-Davidson, so he will get to ride,” she said, adding that she will hop on the back of it.
Renee Myers of Gallitzin said she likes the event because it’s child-friendly.
Her two children, Cullen, 5, and Cami, 7, were getting off the bungee ride.
Her husband, Chris, watched their children on the bungee ride before rushing to the stage where his band, Full Kilt, an Irish band from the Mainline area, was preparing to perform.
“We enjoy looking at all the bikes and listening to the entertainment,” Renee Myers said.
Bob Yaskanich of the Johnstown area, who was at the event with his wife, Nancy, described Thunder as a major cultural event.
“It’s one of the biggest motorcycle events on the East Coast, and it’s right here in Johnstown,” he said. “We would not want to miss it.”
Lou Price of Mineral Point was at the event with his friends Brian and Valeria Easterbrook of Sidman.
“I do it every year,” he said about attending Thunder events. “Every Wednesday we start here and work our way all around.”
Valeria Easterbrook said she enjoys shopping and the various vendors and meeting friends.
Brian Easterbrook said he took a vacation this week so that he could attend Thunder.
Cheryl Leslie of the Johns-town area, who was at the event with her husband, Tom, said her husband will display his three Triumph motorcycles at the Rat’s Hole Bike Show. Last year, he took first place in his class.
Bill and Sue Lease of the Johnstown area, who both have motorcycles, said they enjoy themselves at Thunder events each year. Today, they are planning to attend the Wheels and Wings event in Ebensburg.
Bob Heffelfinger, a battalion chief for the Richland Township Fire Department, said the the event was off to an excellent start.
“We have three more days ahead of us,” he said. “We’re hoping that with the good weather, we will have a better year than we had last year.”
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