Morgantown, W.Va., July 28–31—What a difference a few miles makes. Less than 15 miles below the Mason Dixon Line, life is different, especially during MountainFest Motorcycle Rally week. Voted by Men’s Journal as the 3rd Best Small Town in America, the Morgantown community, and for that matter the entire state of West Virginia, seems to go out of their way to ensure you have what you need during your visit.
MountainFest is a full-on, modern motorcycle rally, taking place in and around Morgantown, West Virginia. Mylan Park, just outside of town, is the host for many of the rally’s activities including musical headliners, the vendor mall, thrill shows and the Coal Bucket Saloon. The rally features nationally known entertainment like Ted Nugent, Montgomery Gentry, Grand Funk Railroad, Molly Hatchet and Rare Earth all on the main stage at Mylan Park. Live music was also featured on the second stage adjacent to the main stage at Mylan, with acts like Drake White and the George Shingleton Band. You got all of this for the general admission price of only $25.
But wait; that’s not all. Admission also includes live thrill shows featuring the Ives Brothers Globe of Death and Freestyle Show. Most of us have watched these kids grow up in the business, and while they still ride inside the Globe of Death (a perforated steel sphere), they’ve added freestyle motorcycle jumps to the act, too. Also on hand, the Adrenaline Crew Stunt Team did their best to keep at least one wheel on terra firma at all times, giving us burnouts, stoppies and wheelies along with some amazing displays of controlled riding from contorted positions I hope to never find myself in. But my personal favorite thrill show at MountainFest was the California Hell Riders Wall of Death. I never get tired of the sound and sway of the motordrome, or watching the faces of the spectators as they marvel at the Daniels family plying their craft. There’s nothing like vintage bikes racing around a vertical, silo-like structure, defying both gravity and common sense. The hum of the 101 Indian is almost hypnotic as Don Daniels II circles the ‘drome in stark contrast to the staccato rap of Sandra D’s ’57 Harley Hummer and Ian Daniels’ go-kart. Sad to know this particular type of two-wheeled derring-do is rapidly fading from the motoculture of America.
Saturday at MountainFest featured the 11th annual Cycle Source Magazine Ride-In Chopper Show and Custom Builders Showcase. This year the show was outdoors on the midway, creating quite a buzz. The show included bikes from mild to wild, Panheads to imports and almost everything in between. One FL Harley featured West Virginia-appropriate coal miner artwork applied to the fairing, tank and bags, while other bikes were striking enough dressed in simple satin black.
You say you want a chance to get out of the heat? The four sprinkler tents and abundance of ice-cold beverages just aren’t cooling you off? Forward-thinking MountainFest organizers thoughtfully threw in a world-class vintage motorcycle display inside the air-conditioned comfort of the Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center. The exhibit featured over 250 vintage bikes, including domestics, imports, scooters, dressers, sportbikes and much more. A faux drive-in theater, motocross starting gate and Ace Café backdrop along with a full-size teepee display for the Indian Motorcycles collection set the scene to show off the bikes. There was also a military vignette and several stand-alone presentations as well. Beneath the modern exterior of MountainFest beats the heart of a national caliber vintage event.
The Community Center also played host to the fine art of David Uhl, Scott Jacobs and Michael Lichter. A once-in-a-lifetime moment occurred for me when famed photographer Michael Lichter introduced me to “Fast Eddie” Rieken, the subject of Lichter’s iconic 1979 photograph Early Morning, taken at City Park in Sturgis. This classic black-and-white image features Fast Eddie sleeping on the ground, wrapped in a quilted blanket, with his prosthetic leg propped up against his bike. More than 30 years after the fact, it was great to see that Fast Eddie and Michael were still living the life. Fast Eddie was accompanied by his friend Dain Chapman who is also minus one OEM leg. It was obvious that Dain isn’t letting that slow him down anymore than it does Fast Eddie.
Another highlight of the vintage display was the first Antique Motorcycle Foundation Award for Excellence, presented by Ed Youngblood to Motorcycle Cannonball, Inc. Two participants in the coast-to-coast Motorcycle Cannonball, Jim Petty and Buzz Kanter, accepted the award and exhibited their Cannonball mounts—a vintage 1915 Indian and Harley, respectively. The two regaled the crowd with stories from their ultimate road trip and then enticed visitors to attend the MountainFest Vintage Grand Prix the following morning at the City’s Wharf District by starting up their faithful 1915 steeds. The Grand Prix was free to the public on MountainFest Sunday and afforded everyone the opportunity to see, hear and smell a collection of vintage bikes in an exhibition race (wink, wink, nudge, nudge—sure, it’s just an exhibition). With classes for every size bike from diminutive 50cc minis to the Big Twins, including a special Cannonballer Class, the Grand Prix drew the largest crowd anyone could remember, with everyone cheering for their favorite. Word is getting out about this unique exhibition and each year a few more publications of national caliber are on hand to cover it. Just remember, Thunder Press brought it to you first!
For good measure, Saturday’s long list of events also included a bike blessing prior to the bike parade through town, a $2,000 poker run sponsored by BSF, the AHRMA Vintage Off Road Races, two guided rides for classic (pre-’86) motorcycles and a variety of self-guided scenic rides designed by the city’s visitors bureau. Lest they be accused of lacking variety, the rally also hosted the Boom Town Hoops (Legendary Buffalo Chip Hula Girls), Biker Billy Cooks with Fire, and Randy Oitker, Guinness World Record archer.
The host dealership, Triple S Harley-Davidson, located on Cheat Road, had a live music schedule of its own to maintain. Triple S featured no less than five bands at the dealer party including the popular Davisson Brothers, combined with tattooing and of course food and a serious traffic flow that would leave many dealerships envious.
And then there’s the Coal Bucket Saloon and Camp MountainFest, where, traditionally, adult rally happenings play out with the help of Buster “The Cowboy” Brown. The Cowboy pulls double duty at MountainFest keeping the Mylan Park main stage crowd fired up with his T-shirt gun and hijinks, then running up the hill to the Coal Bucket Saloon all weekend long. Campsites at Camp MountainFest started at $70 for a 10′ x 20′ space with a four-person occupancy. If all this entertainment wasn’t enough, there were also $29 helicopter rides, a Ferris wheel and tons of vendors this year with apparel, gear and accessories being in high demand.
Many don’t realize that MountainFest Motorcycle Rally LLC is a nonprofit organization that has donated over $500,000 to various nonprofits during its existence. By supporting MountainFest you’re helping build a better West Virginia. And the event was well supported with a record crowd estimated at 65,000 to 70,000 showing up to experience MountainFest 2011. To get on board early for next year, visit www.wvmountainfest.com.