Jun. 23—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Visit Johnstown is gearing up for the rumble of motorcycles throughout the Laurel Highlands.
Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally will be held Thursday through Sunday in downtown Johnstown.
"Thunder in the Valley is a tradition for a lot of people," said Lisa Rager, Visit Johnstown's executive director.
"It's on their calendar every year, whether it's folks who travel from farther distances or people within our own region. It's something they look forward to.
"The one great thing about Thunder and the way it's structured is anybody can enjoy it. We always refer to it being so much like a festival with an emphasis on motorcycles. People enjoy the entertainment, shopping the vendors, looking at the bikes and people-watching, so it's the whole atmosphere that Thunder has created."
Venue sites include Central Park, the Suppes Ford Biker Mall and Peoples Natural Gas Park.
Peoples Natural Gas Park will be a ticketed venue with a $5 admission on Friday and a $10 admission Saturday at the gate.
"The setting for the mainstage went over really well last year and people enjoyed the atmosphere of Peoples Natural Gas Park, plus the scenery around it is attractive," Rager said.
The rally will feature 31 musical acts, ranging from rock to country to blues to oldies.
"We try to get a variety and have a mix of all genres of music, so there's something for everybody," said Jayne Korenoski, Visit Johnstown's director of advertising and sales.
"A lot of bands I have booked every year because they're so well liked and I know they draw a crowd, and I also try every year to add new bands."
Headlining acts include Hairball, The Jake and Elwood Blues Revue, Hells Bells and Jasmine Cain.
Hairball is a rock 'n' roll tribute band that is known to turn every show into a big event, performing the music of '80s acts such as Van Halen, KISS, Queen, Motley Crue, Journey and Aerosmith.
"Their show is absolutely phenomenal," Korenoski said. "They are in full costume and have all the pyrotechnics with the lighting and screens."
The Jake and Elwood Blues Revue features impersonators who have been performing for more than 20 years, presenting familiar songs from the "The Blues Brothers" and "Saturday Night Live."
"This is a special act out of Universal Studios, and they are the only Blues Brothers review that is sanctioned by the (John) Belushi estate," Korenoski said. "They are really fabulous."
Hells Bells salutes the driving force of AC/DC with authentic costuming, the look, the sound and all of the crazy antics of Angus Young.
"They are a great tribute show, and they are going to be so much fun in Central Park after the Grand Thunder Parade," Korenoski said.
"Hells Bells has been on our radar to bring back again, so I thought it would be nice to have them as an afternoon show right after the parade when we have such a huge crowd."
'First Lady of Thunder'
Korenoski said no Thunder in the Valley would be complete without rocker Jasmine Cain.
"We call her the 'First Lady of Thunder,' and she's just a staple for us," Korenoski said.
"As long as I'm still around booking, I'll book Jasmine for as long as she'll come here. She's just phenomenal."
Additional acts include Giants of Science, The Stickers, The Cash Out Show, S'Wearing Hats, Krazy Kat Daddies, Rust, Jukehouse Bombers, Boomers, Full Kilt, Moore Brothers, Felix and the Hurricanes, Silver Screen, Stonebridge Blues, Whiskey River Panhandlers, Cajun Norm and the Jam Band, The Rusty Shackles, Octane, Tom Katz, Morley's Dog Band, 7 Mile Run, Jimmy Adler, Dany Vavrek, Michael Christopher, The Stickers, Right Turn Clyde, Three of Hearts and The Past-Tymes.
Hot Nights, Cool Lights
The parades are a highlight of Thunder in the Valley.
The Hot Nights, Cool Lights Parade will be held Thursday starting at The Fifth Local Eatery & Alehouse, 1424 Scalp Ave., Richland Township.
The lineup will start at 7 p.m. with the parade beginning at 9:30 p.m. and proceeding into downtown Johnstown for a lighted bike show and afterparty at Peoples Natural Gas Park.
"There are a lot of folks who come out, and it's a chance for them to show off their LED installations on their bikes," Rager said. "People enjoy riding in it as well as watching it, and they line Bedford Street on the route down into town. It's become one of the anticipated events of Thunder."
Grand Thunder Parade
On Saturday, the Grand Thunder Parade lineup will begin at 11 a.m. at the Commerce Center on Broad Street.
Bikes will arrive at noon at Sargent's Stadium at the Point.
The parade will then proceed down Main Street.
"The Grand Thunder Parade is the high-water mark of Thunder," Rager said.
"We have so many people who come down to town to watch it, and then we have hundreds of bikes participate in it. We're always excited to have the parade every year."
The rally will feature more than 90 food, motorcycle gear and merchandise sellers.
Vendors will offer leather products, helmets, boots, gloves, chaps, stickers, patches, accessories, jewelry and cleaning products.
Coming back will be Speeds Performance Plus, which will do dyno tuning, along with a vendor that will hand paint art on motorcycles.
Returning favorites include MonsterBrite LEDs and Ultimate LED, offering LED installation and accessories options, along with newcomer HogWorkz, who will provide a variety of bike customizations.
Five Star Powersports will be on site selling equipment.
Yamaha will offer demo rides of its new styles.
"Last year we were unable to have Yamaha, so we're really excited to have them back because they've been a partner of ours for a long time," said Nicole Waligora, Visit Johnstown's sports tourism program coordinator.
"People enjoy the demos, and it's a really good opportunity for people to try out a bike before they buy it, or after they take a ride they get interested."
Official Thunder in the Valley merchandise, including T-shirts, hats, mugs and patches, will be sold at two locations on Main Street, the Suppes Ford Biker Mall off Union and Washington streets and Peoples Natural Gas Park.
There will be plenty of food vendors to satisfy rally-goers.
"We try to get some unique offerings and there will be no shortage of food — we have a little bit of everything," Waligora said.
New featured food vendors include Big Wil & the Warden, serving jambalaya, alligator sausage on a stick and Cajun swamp bowls; Three Brothers Donuts, offering donuts and smoothies; and QT's Butt Hut, serving brisket, rib, pulled pork and pork belly burnt-end meals.
Some of the local food vendors will be Chartwells, Pitt-Johnstown's food service; Roots; Taco Chellz; Ace's; The Phoenix Tavern; TNT Concessions; Layton's Concessions; and Taco Inc.
"There's going to be a great variety of vendors," Waligora said.
"What makes our event great is we have favorite vendors who come back year after year and we always get new people who are bringing new ideas and concepts. Whether you're a biker looking to get some bike-oriented stuff or if you're just coming down to get a new pair of sunglasses or an outfit, there's definitely something for every- body."
Thunderbolt Saloons will be at Central Park, Peoples Natural Gas Park and the Suppes Ford Biker Mall.
An integral part of the four-day rally is the volunteers.
"They play a vital role in Thunder.
"We would not be able to run the event without them," said Stacey Wyandt, Visit Johnstown's office and volunteer coordinator. "It takes approximately 200 volunteers to run the event, so they are basically an extended staff of ours."
She said organizers still need volunteers to work day shifts and staff identification verification stations at the Thunderbolt Saloons during evening hours, predominantly from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.
"Right now, I have about 150 volunteers registered and I can use approximately 50 more," Wyandt said.
"I have 30 more slots that need filled, and shifts last 3 1/2 hours."
Those who volunteer will receive a Thunder in the Valley volunteer T-shirt and free admission to Peoples Natural Gas Park on Friday and Saturday.
"Volunteers will be accepted until the day before the event," Wyandt said.
For those interested in volunteering, call Wyandt at 814-536-7993, ext. 105, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rager said Thunder in the Valley attracts between 90,000 and 100,000 people yearly.
"Thunder is the largest event that our community hosts, and there's a lot of folks flowing in and out of the community throughout the course of the weekend," she said. "We want everybody to have a good time, and we want everybody to take it all in and be happy and enjoy this opportunity. For those who might be visiting the area for the first time, we want to introduce them to the Johnstown region and show them what else there is to offer."
For a full schedule of events, visit www.visitjohnstownpa.com.