Johnstown, Altoona to hold separate bike rallies this weekend, increasing competition
ALTOONA Pa. (WJAC) -- Two communitywide biker events are planned for this weekend, giving Johnstown's annual event its first competition in all its 21 years.
Thunder in the Valley has brought thousands of bikers to Johnstown for two decades, but bikers have another option this year just an hour's drive over the mountain.
The two events overlap, with Thunder scheduled Thursday through Sunday and The Pennsylvania Roundhouse Rally scheduled Wednesday through Saturday.
Both Thunder and Roundhouse advertise plans for numerous vendors and performances.
The Roundhouse web page calls the upcoming event "historic," spanning across Altoona, Duncansville and Hollidaysburg.
Roundhouse will also feature a performance by Josh Gallagher, a hometown country star from Cresson who performed at Thunder last year.
Some think this all-new event could bleed businesses and money from Thunder, which organizers said brings millions of badly-needed dollars to local businesses.
"There are some businesses in the area that Thunder in the Valley helps to make their whole year," said Lisa Rager, the executive director of the Greater Johnstown / Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
While Rager said she isn't worried about the Roundhouse rally, she wonders why its organizers chose this particular weekend.
"Would they have chosen this time of year to host a rally if Thunder hadn't already been going on?" Rager asked.
According to a Roundhouse organizer, Charlie Hasson, the dates were simply the ones that worked for the many venues, performers, vendors and volunteers involved. "It was purely logistics," Hasson said.
Bill Wilkinson, also with Roundhouse, said he and the others who've been working for years to create the rally enjoy attending Thunder each year and plan to do the same this year, enjoying what both cities have to offer.
Wilkinson said the Roundhouse team reached out to the Thunder team once they saw the dates would overlap, intending to combine efforts to create a regionwide event. He said the organizers in Johnstown were not interested, but that there's no bad blood.
"There's no feud," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson also plans to eventually expand the rally into a multi-county event, connecting rallies in other Central Pennsylvania towns, including State College or Port Matilda. He said biker rallies in other parts of the country spread across a few towns, benefiting all communities involved, and he hoped for something similar in this region.
Wilkinson was hesitant to discuss the issue of the overlapping dates. "We don't want to be involved in a back-and-forth and have that overshadow what's supposed to be a positive event," he said.
Pennsylvania Roundhouse is a registered nonprofit, and Wilkinson said the group plans to donate the rally's proceeds to the Shriners Children's Hospitals and Sweats For Vets Inc.
"It's just a really good opportunity to give back. The more you can give back to the community, the more the community will give to you. It's just a win-win for everybody," Roundhouse's Debbrah Heath said.
At the end of the day, Rager said other rallies won't affect her planning for Thunder.
"What we do is dictated by what we feel we need to do, and it's not going to be dictated by anything that's going on over the mountain," she said.