VENTURA, CALIF., DEC 8—Ten years ago family and friends gathered on the sandy beach of Ventura’s fairgrounds to say goodbye to the very loved David Mann who passed away one day after his 64th birthday in September of 2004. Known to all as a well-respected Mann among men, David was an incredibly talented artist whose paintings are known the world over as the quintessential portrayal of the biker lifestyle. The fact that a decade later those same family, friends and thousands more gathered on that same beach to pay their respects at the David Mann Chopperfest swap meet, bike show and huge art show speaks volumes of the adoration the Mann continues to receive.
The talented painter and friend to all is no more than a tall tale and a piece of art away from the hearts and minds of those who knew him best, and they are more than happy to share them with the folks who wander through the gates in his honor. Known as the type of guy who’d give the shirt off his back to a friend in need, his devoted widow Jacquie is happy to share stories of their lives together and show off his unique brand of artistry that depicted the very life he lived. For the 10th anniversary of his passing, she made the trip from their home in Kansas City, Missouri, to press flesh and share smiles with her family and the many Mann admirers during the Chopperfest. The site is the exact location where the inseparable couple was married in 1997.
The rocking bash on the beach is notorious for its incredibly hospitable weather, but this year the deep freeze that blanketed all of California made travel for those of us on two wheels a bit dicey, and for the first time we noticed several bikers trailering their rides onto the grounds. We, however, were not among them. Instead we layered up, cranked the heated grips up to max and spread our frosty 400-mile ride out into a day-and-a-half adventure of dodging closed mountain passes and crusty ice patches. The weather, it turned out, would affect the travel of many from outlying areas and was to blame for a drop in attendance numbers for the first time in many years. By showtime on Sunday, however, the rain had passed and determined folks looking for a good time simply layered up to cruise the compound and scope out the haps in brisk 55-degree SoCal sunshine.
This year’s shindig incorporated an expansion of the art show that’s included within the festivities. Mann was known to encourage other artists, even mentoring and tutoring, and it has been wife Jacquie’s desire to continue in that vein by focusing the signature event on the art of the biker world. Father-and-son promoters Dave Hansen and Tory DuVarney, along with curator Big Dave Hansen, sought to pull out the stops in honor of the decade mark for the Chopperfest, and the general consensus is that they knocked it out of the park.
Relocating the exhibition to the larger Santa Rosa Hall located at the front of the venue, Big Dave gathered over 50 artists to show their wares, meet the crowds and honor the legacy of their most respected brethren in a themed display called, “If you build it, they will come.”
Individual exhibits were broken down and curated by a variety of artists such as James Banuellos who handled the Oil & Water exhibit, Anna Marco curated the Soul art, Chris Callen was in charge of the Back Yard exhibit that sat in the center of the action and depicted a typical biker’s home turf, and Matt Noble who showed the Noble Fabrication custom cars displayed throughout the hall. All mediums were represented through the sculptures, tattoos, paintings, photographs, hot rods, pinstriping and even crayon drawings by kids housed in the building where visitors were greeted at the door by the gracious Jacquie and her family. Delighted by the expansion of the art section of the ’Fest, Jacquie posed for photos, met folks and hugged just about everyone who passed by her booth.
Inside, crafters busied themselves with their particular form of expression as appreciative audiences looked on. Chris Callen, with Cycle Source magazine who came out from Pennsylvania, stood next to George the Painter from Arizona as both flicked their brushes across canvasses while around the corner Anna Marco from SoCal had a mixed media collection of Barbies painted by artists Doug Dorr, Scratch, Mr. G and Stone that were hung by nooses from a gallows built by Stormy Byrd. No matter where you looked, there was plenty to intrigue the eye.
Once the more delicate indoor art was absorbed, the show continued out on the lawn in a form that truly depicted what David Mann was all about—motorcycles. Row after row of Mann-inspired machines sat waiting to be ogled by awed attendees in an impressive 120-entry bike show. From upswept pipes to dizzyingly high handlebars, Mann’s unique twist on the motorcycle culture was respectfully presented. With 13 classes, another four “Best of” categories and two magazine awards, there were plenty of chances for the special builds to be noticed by the judges. Additionally, Born Free promoters awarded a cash prize of $2,500 to the Best of Show winner that came with an invitation to show the winning bike at the 2014 Born Free show this summer.
One motorcycle that was impossible to miss was the “Flying Eyeball” built by “White Mike” from Orangevale Choppers. The “1970-something” Shovelhead was adorned with some 151 variations of eyeballs and had crowds mobbed around it all day long. Mike told us that there is no way he could ever get hit while riding, since he had so many eyes looking out for him. By day’s end, he would score the trophy for first place in Radical Design.
The awards were Biltwell helmets that were hand painted onsite by Sonny Boy and presented by the lovely Jennifer Santolucito, who also served as hostess for the day. In between sets by the Bob Carrillo band, Jennifer sang accompaniment to her friend Cody Marks and alongside Seth Enslow.
The real deal of the day was the opportunity for all the shoppers and builders to get to scrounge through the piles of parts the swappers had laid out for perusal. From old albums and nuts and bolts to frames and pipes and engines, it could be found if one was willing to roll up his sleeves and paw through the offerings. Tim Bentley from Negotiable Parts said it all with his sign, declaring, “If you want service, go to Harley-Davidson. If you want parts, start digging.”
As the day wound down and awards were dispersed, Big Dave Hansen took to the stage to hand out a raft of raffle prizes. The one we were hoping to score was an incredibly striking Chopperfest 10 quilt lovingly made by Hansen’s wife, Tammy. It wasn’t, however, meant to be. Instead the quilt went to Rosie and Mike Steele. According to Hansen, the Steeles purchased their tickets in advance, fully expecting to attend the Chopperfest, but days prior to the event, Mike suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized in San Francisco. Rosie accepted the Grand Prize quilt from Tammy and planned to take it home to put on their bed for her husband’s homecoming. The $1,000 raised by the raffle was donated to the American Legion Riders Post 50.
1st: Chuck Vernon, 1918 Indian Power Plus
Old Skool Skooter
1st: Paul Ponkow, 1950 Panhead
1st: Leroy Yoder, 1926 Henderson Deluxe
1st: Ray Sweeten, 2013 Softail Rigid
1st: Mitch Urban, ’65 H-D Electra Glide
1st: Duane Ballard, ’81 KZ Kawasaki
1st: Paul Ponkow, ’73 Triumph Bonneville
1st: White Mike, ’70 H-D Shovel
1st: Andy Marsh, ’63 FLH
1st: Ron, ’94 FXR
1st: Jake Weesman, ’62 Sportster
1st: Paul Ponkow, ’73 Triumph Bonneville
1st: Dalton Walker, ’84 Evo
Sayer Cedillo: ’37 Knuckle
Ryan Cox, ’48 Pan
Noise Cycles, ’68 Shovel
Best of Show
John Edwards, ’59 FLH
David Mann Memorial Award
Les Covington, ’49 FL
Ol Skool Rodz Magazine Best Bike
Jake Wreesman, ’62 Sportster
Iron Works Magazine Award
Ron Baldanado, ’46 H-D Flathead