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16th annual Street Vibrations

By Felicia Morgan

Reno gets it right

The “Biggest Little City” pulls all the parts together

Reno, Nevada, Sept. 23–27—Standing in the hot sun of the high desert in downtown Reno, jostling for a position on the curb while attempting to get one’s bearings among the crush of pedestrians who crammed the vendor-lined streets, the excitement was palpable. From the surrounding streets came “the roar of dirty thunder” (as the Fryed Brothers Band have described it) as bikers raced from traffic light to traffic light.

Along the roped-off “Glitter Gulch,” the big-time big rigs of national vendors were cheek-to-jowl with mom-and-pop operations offering an endless array of what, after awhile, began to look like the same 10 items. Parking sucked, traffic was snarled, and crowds filled every corner for blocks. Ah, yes, Street Vibrations was back for its 16th iteration. Seemingly ignoring anything negative, some 25,000 riders were in town and more than prepared to do their best to soak up every second of raucous fun that was planned for the five-day whoop-it-up.

Billed as the sixth largest bike event in the nation by Roadshows, Inc., the promoters of this mega-monster meet, the motorcycle-flavored street fair sprawls from beneath the neon “Biggest Little City” sign and out across downtown Reno. It features attractions like Monte Perlin’s amazing Globe-O-Cross stunts, but that’s only a part of the activities provided for visiting riders. The local casinos each tailor their promotions to appeal to the riding community, such as the Silver Legacy’s “America’s Finest” display of custom bikes and the bike giveaways provided by both Circus Circus and the El Dorado Casino.

As in the past, the Reno Events Center houses a bikeresque shopping mall consisting of over 100 vendors and 20 tattoo artists such as the legendary Henry Goldfield of San Francisco, and concerts and individual parties are organized at various locations across the area, including the local Harley-Davidson dealers of Reno and Carson City, the small mountain town of Virginia City, and nearby Sparks.

Day rides to Lake Tahoe, a mere 50 miles away, are also listed as part of the official Street Vibes activities, as well as a variety of local poker runs. The entire list of stuff to do is so long and so spread out that it takes a bit of pre-organization if the goal is to get the most out of your Vibrations experience. A pocket guide (which contains a map) to help get it all plotted out is included in the $60 registration packet, if one wants to be considered a VIP and take advantage of all the goodies that come with signing up. We recommend it, even if for nothing more than the secured parking opportunities; but meals, a long-sleeved T-shirt, pin, discount and freebie coupons, entries for poker walks, runs and tournaments as well as the VIP parties and concerts that are included also make it financially practical.

Parking lot parties
Registration is certainly not a prerequisite for taking advantage of the “good vibrations” since there is plenty of good riding and fun times afforded to everyone. Case in point would be the week-long gig out at the Carson City Harley-Davidson dealership, where the party planners definitely earned their keep by putting on a hoedown that kept folks like us returning just to lurk around the dealership and enjoy the festivities. We found ourselves rolling into their packed-to-overflowing parking lot more than once and kicking back under the canopies to suck up suds, nosh a bit and soak up the great music provided by The Cash Only Band, a tribute to Johnny Cash, and Caravanserai, a Santana tribute band.

In between band sets, the guys from the LivFast Moto-X jumped, flipped and flew through the air on their crotch rockets and wowed the gathered masses with their prowess. Not to be outdone, the personable and amazing Jason Pullen pulled out all the stops on his Harleys during his twice-daily performances. Jason’s main squeeze and MC girl Jessica Castro has gotten even more into the act and does some of her own stunts as well as performing in tandem with Pullen. Jason, the ever-evolving stunter and consummate performer, has added a bit of fire to the closing act and lit up the sunset on Friday night by shooting flames from his Sportster’s exhaust while melting down his back tire with a burnout at the same time. The crowd, as they say, went wild.

Streets on fire
Just as the smoke from Pullen’s fried rubber cleared and things mellowed a bit, the lights in the parking lot of the Carson City dealership went dark and the guys from PyroGuys lit up the chilly desert sky with a dazzling fireworks display. The sight of the bombs exploding just above the parked motorcycles gave an impressive visual and attendees cheered their appreciation for the colorful presentation. Something about bombs for bikers is such a satisfying mix, after all.

About the same time, some 30 miles away at 4th and Virginia Streets in downtown Reno, the fireworks that had been cancelled due to economic reasons last year found their way back into the budget for this year’s event and were once again wowing the folks who gathered outside the Silver Legacy to appreciate their display. Newlyweds Rick and Gail and their clan enjoyed the show from their usual perch just across the street at the Thunderbird Motel, where the view above the crowd is always amazing.

The night before, the grand finale had been provided by the sizzling performance of the Northern Nevada’s Controlled Burn Fire Dancers as they burned up the intersection of 2nd and Virginia Streets with their flaming staffs, hula-hoops and fans. All in all, the pyromaniacs at this year’s Street Vibes had some pretty satisfying performances to fuel their fetishes.

‘Fitts n’ Giggles’
The big entertainment for folks and families alike on Saturday night was the third-year appearance of the local roller derby team, the Battle Born Derby Demons, or BBDD for short. The team was pitted against the Sac City Rollers from Sacramento and it was a hot match. Attendees were encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and kids down to the corner of First and Virginia and cheer the ladies on as they tried to stay upright on their skates while slamming into each other to earn points. With such colorful names as “Ginger Snatch” (who was voted MVP of the night), “Fitts n’ Giggles” and “Southern Hell,” the ladies fought hard against their rivals. It was a tuff bout, but in the end, the Sac City gals rolled to victory in the last minutes and beat the local girls with a score of 92–82 in what was the team’s last home game. Check the team out at www.battlebornderbydemons.com

Keepin’ it fresh
After the exhaustive dance of a week-long exercise in seeing all that’s offered, one had to sit back and wonder how this huge event continues to survive in the current economic climate. After all, with gigs like Hollister and the Love Ride being cancelled, and so many other events hitting the endangered species list, we began to question just what the secret was for Street Vibrations, so we made a call to Randy Burke, president of Roadshows, Inc., and asked just that. His answer was simple.

“It takes hard, hard, hard full-time work,” he explained as he marked out the vendor’s spaces for his upcoming “American Heat” show in Palm Springs. As he measured spaces and discussed details with employees, he continued, “We try to read the appetite of the festival-going public and that of the motorcycle enthusiast and then blend the two in order for everyone to have a real fun time. We provide arts, crafts, entertainment, food, beverage, activities and music and all the accessories that would even appeal to John Q. Public. Another thing is that everything we do is free, everyone isn’t all caged up in an auditorium or an arena, and anyone can attend.

“Additionally,” he further explained, “We try to keep things fresh and new each year. Perfect example was the record-breaking jump of Ryan Capes this year, where 10,000 people showed up to watch that spectacular record breaking event at the Grand Sierra Resort.”

Roadshows is also known for giving back to the community. For Street Vibes, donations are shared between such charities as the Elks Lodge, the Ladies Emblem Club (associated with the Elks), three Christian Motorcycle clubs and the Juvenile Diabetes Association. That kind of support doesn’t go unnoticed. But an editorial in the local News & Review titled “Too darn loud,” griped extensively about what it means to live in Reno during the influx of the fall bike festival. Between traffic snafus and what the author cited as the “not fair” experience of suffering through the noise of Street Vibrations, it appears not all is rosy in Reno. While recognizing the reputation of Street Vibes participants as good tippers and polite guests in his city, he questioned why the “group that manages and profits from Street Vibrations is given a pass against noise ordinances that other groups have to follow.”

And as for next year? Well, there are some changes in the wind. Burke stated, “We’re out of room. Plans are to expand. We need an open avenue where we can have street parking and a place to cruise, like back in the old days.” When asked if that meant relocating the entire event out of downtown Reno, Burke coyly said, “Well, maybe; we’re just starting to look at that. Let’s just say details to follow.” So you read it here first, folks. Stay tuned to THUNDER PRESS for further details as they unfold.

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