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West Virginia MountainFest

By Ernie Copper

A mountain medley

Full platter appeals to a variety of tastes

Morgantown, W.V., July 22–25—“We began laying the infrastructure for motorcycle tourism in the ’30s when we began to pave roads,” said West Virginia Division of Tourism Commissioner Betty Carver at a dinner Friday night for the lenders of 190 vintage and antique motorcycles on display at the Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center in Mylan Park. But great roads, scenic rides, and one of the best displays of antique motorcycles on the East Coast are only part of the story at the full-on motorcycle rally known as MountainFest.

One of the more unique aspects concerning this rally that’s often overlooked is that MountainFest, LLC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with proceeds from the rally benefiting Mylan Park and PACE Enterprises. Mylan Park is a community nonprofit recreation and educational campus, while PACE assists those with disabilities find meaningful employment. With that understood, it makes opening your wallet for the $20 regular wristband or the $35 premium upgrade option even easier.

Once properly banded, participants could enjoy a bounty of entertainment and activities including the Charlie Daniels Band on Friday night, Trailer Choir on tap for Saturday evening and Creedence Clearwater Revisited on Saturday night on the main stage at Mylan Park. The Davisson Brothers Band, Higher Ground, New Relics, George Shingleton Band, Second Helping (a LynyrdSkynyrd tribute band) and Kashmir (a Led Zeppelin tribute band) kept things hoppin’ between headliners and also played at the Coal Bucket Saloon and Triple S Harley-Davidson. The “Hog Trough” bar and beer stands dotting the park made it easy to fight the searing mid-90s heat wave with the adult beverages of your choice, including the increasingly popular Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade. Other liquid refreshment options included the Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda Pop “buy the mug and drink soft drinks all day” plan. It was so hot (temperatures flirted with triple digits) that plain old water even hit the spot!

Mylan Park also featured the Vendor Mall, where you could get everything from official rally wear to boots. Also on hand were vendors hawking LED lighting kits, flags and a multitude of leather goods. In the mix were several unique fundraisers that also braved the heat to sell raffle tickets for their causes. And while Tommi Ahvala wowed the Mylan Park crowd with his extreme trials riding exhibition, the Ives Brothers and their Ball of Steel presented their own form of two-wheeled mayhem. The Mylan Park main stage even hosted a wedding on Saturday evening this year as Linda Groves and Jerry Sheets tied the knot.

On a hilltop, half a mile away from Mylan Park, sat the 21-and-over-only Coal Bucket Saloon. The Coal Bucket is actually a big top tent complete with stage, bars and seating that played host to the comedy of Bag Lady Sue, jello wrestling, hot bunz and wet T-shirt contests and a variety of other adult activities, with many hosted by Buster “The Cowboy” Brown from the famous Rat Hole of Myrtle Beach. The campgrounds, Camp MountainFest, were right there too, so if you happened to overindulge at the Coal Bucket, you didn’t have far to go before you crashed. Hopefully you’re starting to get the idea that there is plenty to see and do at MountainFest when it comes to partying, but hey, this is a motorcycle rally, right?

What about the bikes? What about the ride? West Virginia’s roads are God’s own motorcycle playgrounds and this year they played host to the $2,000 BFS Poker Run. Registration for the run was free at the Triple S Harley-Davidson dealership, a MountainFest sponsor, just outside of Morgantown off I-68. Triple S is rockin’ during MountainFest and is a great place for the official MountainFest Welcome Tent. The poker run is a self-guided, self-paced event with stops at BFS convenience stores, and paid out $1,500 to the best hand and $500 to the worst. Triple S also provided tips on other area scenic rides and any H-D parts and accessories you may have needed during your stay at MountainFest. (www.tripleshd.com)

Vintage riders were treated to two special group rides, one Friday afternoon and one Saturday afternoon. If you’re more the parade-riding type, a motorcycle parade was held Saturday through downtown. Prior to the parade, a bike blessing was held by the CMA, including an inspirational message by Jim Basnett, along with feats of strength such as nail bending. The parade was led by the Budweiser Clydesdales; beautiful to watch, and according to handler Mike Wilkerson they spend about 300 days each year on the road. There are three teams of Clydesdales and the average age of the horses is 10 years, with the oldest being about 15. Hundreds, if not thousands, of riders followed this benchmark equine team in the parade and were greeted by cheering crowds who lined the streets of Morgantown to celebrate.

The rally’s Chopper Show was held inside the air-conditioned comfort of the Hazel & J.W. Ruby Center back at Mylan Park on Saturday. The show featured 20 classes of bikes and shared the building with the Custom Builder Showcase and the 190-plus bike Vintage Motorcycle Display, making it the epicenter of Mylan Park.

The Vintage Bike display featured bikes from around the world. It was a must-see display and featured everything from Honda mini-trails to Gene Brown’s ’52 Vincent Black Lightning. Indian Motorcycles surrounded a giant teepee, and there was a military display, a hill climb display and a Brit bike display with an Ace Cafe backdrop. John Layman’s 1949 Panhead replica of Peter Fonda’s Captain America bike was a crowd favorite and it was displayed near a drive-in movie set playing (what else?) Easy Rider. There were Italian bikes, police bikes and race bikes, too. The Ohio Valley BSA Owners Club was out in full force with an exhibit of over 20 BSAs. The vintage display featured absolute jewels of motorcycling’s past. It also captures the spirit of motorcycling with bike lenders ranging in age from 8-year-old Chase Loughery to Denzil Summers, who passed just before MountainFest at the age of 81. MountainFest Vintage coordinator Tom McKee dedicated this year’s exhibit to the memory of Mr. Summers, whose ’75 H-D SX-175 was on display.

New to MountainFest this year were AHRMA motocross races. The area between Mylan Park and the Coal Bucket Saloon served as the AHRMA pits, with racing being conducted on the hills above. It was great to see and hear many of the two strokes from my youth at full song again. For more information on AHRMA and the MountainFest results, visit www.ahrma.org.

Sunday is Vintage Grand Prix Day, one of the event’s most unique facets, with a select group of riders assembling in Morgantown’s Wharf District, just a short ride from Mylan Park. This year the crowd of spectators was noticeably larger than in years past, which is great to see, too. A course was designed with the help of the Mason-Dixon riders, while racers are divided into classes based on what bikes actually turn out. The bikes range in age from the early 1900s to the ’70s. Grouped primarily by displacement, they run a heat race followed by a feature race. The races are officially only an exhibition, but each rider gets after it in their own way. Some drag pegs lap after lap, while others take a more leisurely approach. Either way, it’s a one-of-a-kind chance to see historical machinery being well used. The field also includes sidecar racing, which many people go a lifetime without seeing. This year Andy Lindsay piloted his BSA rig with precision with his monkey David Wasserman delighting the crowd as he scrambled all over the sidehack. While Knuckles, Pans and Flatties mixed it up with Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs battled one another and a contingent of Italian singles challenged a field of vintage Japanese bikes. It was all over too soon, but just in time as a ferocious thunderstorm was quickly approaching. The horizontal rain signaled the unofficial end to MountainFest for another year. If you’re within two days ride of Morgantown, you really shouldn’t miss MountainFest next year. (www.wvmountainfest.com)

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