MORGANTOWN, W.V., JULY 25-28—Change is the only constant, and this year’s Mountainfest Rally saw plenty of change. Some of it was self-induced, while some was out of necessity in reaction to Mother Nature’s unpredictable disposition.
The rally officially ran from Wednesday through Saturday, instead of the traditional Thursday through Sunday arrangement. Wednesday was “public day” and featured no admission charge to Mylan Park, allowing locals and others to check out the venue from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Much of the U.S has suffered from unprecedented heat and humidity this summer, with many hoping and praying for relief. Unfortunately, God answered those prayers on Thursday by sending a massive thunderstorm complete with high winds that forced an on-the-fly adjustment to Mountainfest, the effects of which would be felt throughout the rest of the event. Power outages, downed trees and most significantly, the closure of the 100′ x 140′ temporary structure that was to house the Coal Bucket Saloon had an exponential impact on the rally. Activities originally scheduled for the Coal Bucket were moved inside the Hazel and J.W Ruby Community Center, already the site of the rally’s Custom Builder Showcase, the 12th annual Cycle Source Magazine Ride-In Chopper Show, the Needle Art Expo and a variety of other top-notch vendors including the artwork of Scott Jacobs and David Uhl. The Coal Bucket had a tradition of being located in the campground, not inside Mylan Park, and in my experience that change did not meet with the approval of the campers. They like having the Coal Bucket in the campground and were not happy about the first move, but were somewhat understanding about the second one since it was caused by necessity. Campsites ranged in price from $130 to $225 for the duration of the event and did not include event admission.
The weather also forced the cancellation of Thursday’s headliner, Colt Ford, and began the soaking of Mylan Park’s thirsty grounds that wouldn’t be completed until Saturday afternoon. Organizers offered those with Thursday-only tickets the option of exchanging them for either Friday or Saturday event admission.
Friday, activities resumed at the host dealership, Triple S Harley-Davidson, and throughout Mylan Park. Perennial favorites, the Davisson Brothers, played at Triple S along with The Cherry People, while headliner John Kay and Steppenwolf took the main stage at Mylan Park.
A parade with a purpose
Saturday is always the biggest day at Mountainfest. Riders assembled at the West Virginia University Coliseum parking lot at 11:00 a.m. for a Blessing of the Bikes conducted by Bikers for Christ prior to heading on to Beechhurst Avenue at 1:00 p.m. for the popular Parade of Bikes. This year, the parade featured the riderless bike of the late Sergeant Michael Todd May, a Monongalia County Sheriff’s Deputy who lost his life in the line of duty on February 18. May’s ’03 Night Train was towed on a trailer by the sheriff department’s SUV, representing a riderless horse, and was surrounded by his law enforcement riding colleagues, fraternity brothers and other first responders. Hundreds, if not thousands, of riders followed on bikes of all makes and vintage, and the townspeople responded by lining the streets to view the procession.
Saturday afternoon featured more live music at Triple S H-D, while back at Mylan Park Circus Una, trials rider Tommi Ahvala and the Ives
Brothers Wall of Death entertained those not shopping the vendor mall, which included everything from hot tubs to the Jack Daniel’s Experience.
Circus Una’s act is equal parts motorcycle thrill show and acrobatics, as the all-female cast performs by riding a motorcycle on a high wire with aerialist Una swinging from beneath and performing tricks. Well, she’s beneath it until the finale, which includes 360-degree revolutions around the high wire. Una’s 5:30 p.m. show was ready to roll when another thunderstorm began to toss lightning bolts toward Mountainfest, forcing Una to come down from her perch and everyone else to seek shelter inside the Ruby Center.
The Ives Brothers, a longtime fixture as riders in the Ball of Steel, have taken on a new challenge, the Wall of Death. Cody and Kyle Ives are learning the art of the motordrome. Riding the wall formerly owned by Canadian Rene Regimbal, the brothers Ives will certainly be doing all of your favorite old ‘drome tricks in no time, but are currently sticking to basics and it’s playing well to spectators. I’ll admit I’m kind of a wall geek, but am consistently amazed by the number of people in their 50s and 60s who have never seen a show. If there is a drome at a rally near you, please support it not only by watching it, but also by tipping generously. You will be helping to save history. The Ives Wall enjoyed long lines all rally long.
The chopper show was underway by the time I returned from the parade Saturday, and featured a wide range of bikes built in styles from old school to bar stool. No kiddin’—a Sportster-powered bar stool caught my eye and yes, it had tags! This is the kind of creativity the Cycle Source shows are known for. It was difficult to tell where the ride-in show stopped and the Builder Showcase started, but the crowd filtered through and enjoyed it all. Builders in the showcase included Kustoms Inc., Chop Docs, Doomtown, Bare Knuckle Choppers, Justified Defiance, Sully’s, Led Sled Customs, Wiskybilt Customs, Pandemonium Custom Choppers, ParaDice, Faith Forgotten Choppers, MotoRod, Deville Cycles and Indian Larry Motorcycles.
A mechanical bull also provided entertainment for many, while others perused the art, vendors and bike show while listening to the live music from the Coal Bucket Saloon stage. Tattoo artists were also on hand in the now-packed Ruby Community building. Mountainfest staff had a tough job keeping the crowd away from building exits during the rain delay, but they did a fine job and eventually the rain subsided.
In its wake, literally, was a flooded stage area and midway—Lake Mylan, if you will— where headliner Trace Adkins was set to perform. A little water never bothered real bikers, and right in the middle of a giant puddle in the midway is where I found three-and-a-half-year-old “Lil’ Shot of Whiskey” Levi Murray, riding his bike. Levi’s grandpa, Mark Wilson, is the owner of Wiskybilt Customs. Within a few minutes, Lil’ Shot was basking in the glow of the midway lights as they reflected off the water, and riding for tips!
By showtime you had to either slog through ankle-deep water to get close to the stage or stand around the perimeter. There was no general admission seating, and no carry-in chairs were allowed. Trash barrels turned on edge served as seats for some, while others just stood in the water or looked for a high spot. Premium bleacher seating was available for an extra $10 at the gate, but unfortunately you had to wade through the same water as the general admission hoi polloi to get to it, leaving those who anted up disappointed. The only ones safe from the high water were Sam the Stilt Girl (for obvious reasons) and Fire Annie, as she twirled fireballs on top of a table.
Before Trace Adkins took the stage a check was presented by the Mountainfest West Virginia Hogs and
Heroes Foundation in honor of Sgt. Todd May to the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association, with May’s parents on hand. When Trace Adkins took the stage wearing a Hogs and Heroes vest, the crowd erupted. Adkins performed all of the crowd favorites and his show was the perfect way to cap off the rally.
The morning after
The biggest change, for me, came Sunday morning and was manifested by the absence of Sunday’s Vintage Motorcycle Grand Prix in Morgantown’s Wharf District. As a multi-year participant and fan of the Grand Prix, I cannot understand its elimination. Conspicuously concurrent with its absence is the disappearance of the Mountainfest vintage motorcycle exhibit, one of the best temporary gatherings of vintage bikes on the East Coast. Whatever the reason for the demise of this vintage aspect, the event is not better off for it. It helped separate it from the pack in a good way. With the Grand Prix gone, Sunday was largely a pack up and head for home day with no pretense of activities on the schedule for Mylan Park. There were, however, some activities scheduled for Triple S Harley, including the Davisson Brothers.
Mountainfest’s one-day adult admission of $25 is a good value considering the wide variety of live entertainment and activities available. Offering much more than you could possibly absorb in one day, you actually need to plan your visit to maximize the experience and see all the vendors. The BFS Poker Run is a way to see the area and possibly win $1,500 for the best hand or $500 for the worst. Oh, and reserve your hotel early; the good ones go fast!
In my experience, the community continues to show support for the event; welcoming riders and the commerce they represent. Many area establishments continue to hold activities and specials of their own to attract Mountainfest riders, with Archie’s being the most notable.
Mountainfest is a nonprofit LLC and has done a lot of good for the area, including Mylan Park, its host site, which is also nonprofit. In its relatively short history, Mountainfest has reacted to concerns in very positive ways. This year’s event has brought a significant new round of concerns and the reaction of Mountainfest leaders to those topics will have a huge impact on its future.
Triple S Harley-Davidson is currently clearing ground for its new store at exit 155 off I-79, which is the Interstate exit for Mylan Park. Dealership growth is always good for riders, and the relocation is sure to be an improvement for Triple S. It’s also sure to bring another round of changes to the complexion of Mountainfest, which is scheduled for July 24–27, 2013. Here’s to hoping they’re good ones. For updates and information visit www.wvmountainfest.com.