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June 27, 2014

Lighting up the night: Parade helps usher in rally

— Downtown Thunder-goers were treated to flourishes of sound – with the Central Park gazebo rocking live – and light, as dozens upon dozens of flashy custom bikes lit up Main Street.

The Hot Nights/Cool Lights parade lined the sidewalks with those awaiting its dazzling chromatic spectacle.

At least one rider was sidelined, however, intimidated by the more extravagant LED fixtures that have rolled through downtown in recent years.

“I don’t have enough lights this year,” said Joseph Lee of Vinco, watching wistfully from a parking spot in front of Em’s Subs. “I’m watching the parade this year to get some ideas.”

There isn’t a standard for how many LED fixtures a bike needs to participate, but Lee said he wants to really “wow” the crowds when he cruises past. His wife, who was set on riding in the parade, was very disappointed.

“I want to add more so I can have my tailpipe showing more,” Lee said of the violet aura emanating from under the frame of his bike, called “ground effects.” “Right now, it’s pretty much just shining on the chrome on the engine.”

He said the lighting kits aren’t expensive and are easy to install. It only took him and his brother about 21/2 hours to get his bike glowing. He said he’s slowly easing into motorcycle culture – he’s pretty new to the whole thing.

Dianne Frye DeLisa of Southmont is no expert either – in fact, she said she wouldn’t get on a bike if you paid her.

For DeLisa and her husband and children, coming to the light parade each year is more about tradition – and nostalgia.

“We started doing this with my mom, who just passed away in March,” she said. “We’d come every year with her. She really couldn’t get around very well, so she would sit in the car and honk that horn and wave. (The bikers) would all wave to her.”

Aside from the ground effects, which always capitivate, she said, it’s about soaking in the lively downtown atmosphere on a sultry summer evening.

“I’m old enough to remember the Johnstown streets busy with shoppers,” she said. “Just to see the streets of the city filled with happy people – it warms my heart.”

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

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