Asbury Park, N.J., Feb. 4—If there was one bright spot in the wintertime bike scene in New Jersey, it had to be the Cheap Thrills Motorcycle Show & Swap Meet held at the Asbury Park Convention Hall. The seaside community “down the shore,” as we Jerseyans call it, has been a popular resort area, complete with boardwalk, since the late 19th century, and has gone through many changes, both economic and social. It’s now undergoing yet another revitalization, and with that is revealed an ever-expanding artistic, entertainment, and culinary scene.
The historic Convention Hall, right on the boardwalk and beach, has have been host to scores of concerts, conventions, and formal balls, and, in recent years, home to the Jersey Shore Roller Girls roller derby league. Adjoining the Convention Hall is the 1,600-seat Paramount Theater, both of which are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. This conjoined venue has proven to be the perfect spot to host the inaugural Cheap Thrills show last year, and we all welcomed the event’s return to the same location.
Promoter “Dusty” partnered with Walter Gemeinhardt of Kickstart Customs, Lowside Magazine, and other sponsors/supporters Biltwell Inc., Lowbrow Customs, Chop Cult, and TNT Motorcycle Parts to produce this spectacular one-day event. Admission to the show and swap meet was a mere $10 per person, with kids under 12 allowed in for free to this family-friendly event.
The Grand Arcade, between the Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater, was the location for the 50-plus motorcycles entered into the show. Although not promoted as an antique affair, the vintage flavor ruled the day, I didn’t see any bikes newer than Shovels or Ironheads. This wasn’t a ride-in show; entries sold out well in advance. And the bikes on display represented everything from racers, such as the 1937 H-D hillclimber, to workhorses, like the ’37 Knucklehead with sidehack cart. Each bike reflected the personality of its owner or builder, and together they formed a fascinating timeline of motorcycling in the early- to mid-20th century.
Rows of exhibitors graced the inside of the huge Convention Hall, with everything from vintage leathers to swap meet parts filling every available inch of table and floor space. Some of the merchants included Chopper Swapper Bob’s Bikes, Mutha Country Choppers, Devil Chicken Fine Art Design, Retrofit, and Choppahead. Other exhibits included owners/promoters of cool events such as Mel Stultz of The Race of Gentlemen and Kenny Buongiorno of Appalachian MotoJam and Strange Days. The Jersey Shore chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America set up a few vintage beauties on the floor. People were seen with armloads full of parts leaving the Convention Hall and returning to continue their buying sprees. And Josh Kohn of Immortal Ink set up a temporary tattoo shop where scores of people got new ink.
Plenty of other diversions were available, such as the Motorcycle Film Festival showing some of the shorter film entries from the show held in Brooklyn this past September. Admission to the Paramount Theater, where a selection of films looped throughout the day, was $5 per person. Food and beverage purveyors were located in the Grand Arcade as well as along the boardwalk. At the other end of the boardwalk, the old casino arcade, steam plant and carousel were in various states of reconstruction. And there’s nothing like walking across the sandy beach—yes, even wearing our winter coats and boots on—with absolutely no crowds and just the sea gulls cawing and diving into the ocean.
Later that afternoon, Dusty and Walter and crew got up on stage to announce the winners in eight classes. Plaques were awarded for Best Race Bike, Best Shovelhead, Best Panhead, Best Metric, Best Paint, Best Fabrication, People’s Choice and Best in Show. Towards evening, the show began to wind down, and many of us headed over to The Saint on Main Street for the after party, which featured four bands and about 20 brands of beer.
One of the things I enjoyed most about the show, swap meet and after party was hanging out with close friends as well as reuniting with others I hadn’t seen in years. Cheap Thrills was once again a smashing success, and we can’t wait to do it all over again next year.