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June 27, 2014

Revelers flock to Wheels and Wings

EBENSBURG — If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s how organizers of Ebensburg’s sister bike rally Wheels and Wings feel about the event.

This year’s bash was the 10-year anniversary, said Danea Koss, community development director for the borough. And if the crush of people meandering through town is any indication, the winning formula continues to pay off.

“I think it’s gotten bigger every year,” Koss said. “It’s tricky to determine whether we can expand.”

The event already pushes borough streets and sidewalks to capacity with vendors and their tents, bikers, revelers and local families. It took this reporter at least 20 minutes to find a parking spot for a car. Organizers planned for more vendors this year.

The borough also hosted the Budweiser Clydesdales for the first time – another reason Koss said the 2014 event has drawn a larger crowd. The horses are usually a Thunder staple, but the Ebensburg event continues to encroach on its ...  thunder.

Wendy Romagna of Revloc said she’d choose Wheels over Thunder – it just comes down to atmosphere. And Romagna knows the crowd. She works at the Apple Harley-Davidson store in Altoona. She and several co-workers cruised into Ebensburg together.

“It’s absolutely (better than Thunder) because there’s more people here,” she said. “There’s more bikes to see that are all lined up in a row. You have the whole car show, you have all the food and more people all at once.

Koss said that while PotatoFest crowds are thinner – the event is spread out from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. –  Wheels and Wings might be the strongest concentration of revelers, she said. And it showed in the shoulder-to-shoulder herds packing West Sample Street.

“It’s tricky because we’re sort of limited on space and where we can branch out to,” Koss said. “We’re doing our part in terms of staffing volunteers and ordering supplies.”

The borough barely makes anything off the rally, Koss said – maybe a few thousand dollars. It’s more about nourishing commerce.

“We want businesses here to be happy businesses,” she said. “We want to draw people in. They can see what Ebensburg has to offer.”

Romagna said she has been coming to the event for years. She thinks it’s the mainstream acceptance of “biker” culture that makes the party swell each year.

“I think every year more and more people are riding,” she said. “I know just from working in the store with Harleys – more and more people are getting into the whole lifestyle of riding.

“It’s a whole lifestyle change when you have a bike,” Romagna said. “All these people here – they all have something in common. And that’s why more people come.”

For Koss, it’s a sign they’re doing things right.

“We’re just going to keep on keeping on with what we’re doing,” she said. “What we’re doing is working.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.

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