YORK, PA., SEPT. 27-30—By the time I arrived at the York Expo Center on Thursday, the rain had stopped and the clouds had begun to clear. The first-ever White Rose Thunder rally was nearly two years in the making, and organizers Bob Adamson, Larry Racey and Jeff Rehmeyer had arranged for an impressive lineup of events.
The three partners have years of experience with motorcycles and related events. Racey had organized Gettysburg Bike Week for some time, and Adamson owns Susquehanna Cycles in Red Lion, just a few miles from York. Rehmeyer practices law in York, and all three had garnered a huge amount of support from the community.
A day at the fair
The Expo Center is the location of the historic York Fair, and the fairgrounds lent the event a festival-like environment. Nearly the entire property was dedicated to the rally, with various activities happening inside two of the buildings, at the grandstand, on the track and along the midway.
My first order of business was to find some lunch. I expected the typical rally fare, but was happily reminded that York is in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, which meant good eats! The food vendors under the grandstand and along the midway offered a dazzling array of comfort cuisine—barbecued and smoked meats, hearty soups, hand-rolled pretzels, apple turnovers, funnel cakes… Let’s just say that I postponed my dieting plans until the following week.
Next was the Toyota Arena where a variety of vendors filled the 74,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall. The arena was also where the Sinful Art Tattoo Expo set up shop. Sinful Art Tattoo Studio out of Vineland, New Jersey, partnered with Tattoos By Halo from Elkridge, Maryland, to bring over 20 artists and bodywork-related vendors to York, and the buzzing of tattoo machines could be heard throughout the weekend.
Purveyors of biker paraphernalia and other goods were spread across the hall, as well. Vicious Cycles of Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, had their big rig and a half-dozen customs on display. White Rose Motorcycle Club exhibited a couple of hill climb bikes to promote the AMA Pro Hill Climbs scheduled for Sunday on their property in Jefferson, Pennsylvania. Indian Motorcycle of Northern New Jersey had the latest, most luxurious Chiefs on display. The exhibit I found most fascinating was that of Bob’s Indian Sales and Service out of Etters, Pennsylvania. The shop was originally an Indian dealership opened by Bob Markey, and it eventually grew to include other brands. Today the shop, run by Bob’s son Robin, provides service, restorations and parts for antique Indians, Royal Enfields and Hondas. Robin, who virtually grew up in his dad’s shop, has an extensive knowledge of old Indians and other vintage motorcycles, and is an expert on World War II military Indians, two of which were on display. Also exhibited was a 1940 Sport Scout racer actually raced by Bob from 1950 to 1965 and a rare 1942 Indian Arrow complete with factory Indian skis and rear snow tire for riding in the winter!
On the midway were more vendors selling everything from military merchandise to custom motorcycles. You could get L.E.D. lights installed or take a demo ride on a Yamaha. The Seeing Eye, Inc. puppies were being led by their humans for socialization training (and to solicit support for the organization), while other raffles and fundraisers were promoted. A full schedule of events was planned, starting with poker runs on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings with the $10-per-hand proceeds going to various local charities, along with a charity ride on Sunday to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Biker games took place on Friday and Saturday with custom engraved pewter plates awarded to the winners, along with cash for the burnout pit competition. And for those who admire professional trick riding, the StarBoyz put on nearly a dozen stunt shows throughout the rally.
A special treat was the Biker Billy Cooks with Fire show, with cooking demonstrations held twice a day on Friday and Saturday. Biker Billy, author of four cookbooks and host of a television cooking show, kept the crowd engaged and entertained with his own brand of biker humor along with his unique cooking methods. His spicy-hot pepper challenges (you’ve got to see the show to understand) have caused many a red-faced man to leave the stage all teary-eyed, but his culinary creations are worth any amount of embarrassment you might endure. On Friday, the show featured the making of “biker beeritos,” which he offered to the audience at the end of the demonstration. I was first in line. I wonder if Biker Billy would consider a personal chef engagement in my kitchen.
Memorial Hall was the venue for Saturday’s custom bike show, with a Corvette and muscle car show in an adjoining exhibit hall. Over 50 bikes were entered, with plaques given to all participants and custom pewter plates awarded to the winners of 11 classes and seven special classes. Cash prizes were awarded for best in show ($1,000) and best paint ($500). Before the winners were announced, I’d met Kevin Kohler, winner of the Best Paint award, at the Black Sheep Harley-Davidsons for Christ exhibit on the midway. Kevin, known as RevKev, bought his 2008 Softail Custom on eBay, and he had it painted with beautifully rendered religious messages, adding a chrome-plated crown of thorns mounted over the headlamp. Kevin is the Central Pennsylvania Black Sheep director as well as the Harrisburg H.O.G. chaplain.
The vendors closed up shop at 5:00 p.m. each day (except Sunday, when the rally drew to a close at 3:00 p.m.), but evening entertainment was provided on Thursday and Saturday. Thursday night’s kickoff concert in the grandstand began at 6:00 p.m. with Kix, a hard-rock band popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The passing years haven’t slowed them down any, though. The band still kicks ass, and lead singer Steve Whiteman is still as raunchy and irreverent as ever. The headliner was Vince Neil from Motley Crüe, but by the time he took the stage it began to rain, causing many bikers to make a mad dash back to their hotels. Live music continued with the Trailer Park Cowboys and the Revelators playing Friday afternoon, and Mustang Sally taking the open stage Saturday night. Lead singer Tobi Lee was once described by Real Women Rednecks Magazine as being “about as calm as a twister in a trailer park,” and in my opinion, her singing skills, humor and high energy, plus the talent of the other band members, made this concert the best musical performance of the weekend. The band ended their set less than 30 minutes before it started to rain, giving most folks enough time to make it back to their hotels without getting wet.
Part of the community
The intention was for White Rose Thunder to complement several other events occurring that weekend including the Harley-Davidson Open House, York Bike Night and the White Rose MC Hill Climbs, making the rally a natural stop for motorcyclists already in the area—especially for those who wanted to experience a full four days steeped in all things motorcycle.
On Thursday, I headed over to the Harley-Davidson Open House held at the York Vehicle Operations plant on Eden Road, about four miles from the York Expo Center. York is where Tourers, Tri Glides and Softails are assembled, and on Thursday we were able to see some 2013 anniversary models and CVOs make their way along the production line.
Outside the plant, four local dealerships—Appalachian H-D, Laugerman’s H-D, Susquehanna Valley H-D and White’s H-D—had set up merchandise tents. You could snack on food available from vendors while listening to local bands. In the lower lot, demo rides of the 2013 models were being conducted. And on Friday, Fox43 and the York County Harley-Davidson Owners Association held the annual Pride and Ride charity ride to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.
Friday night was the 18th annual York Bike Night sponsored by Harley-Davidson, the York County Harley-Davidson Owners Association and the City of York. The annual Bike Night kick-off parade left the York Expo Center at 6:00 p.m. with grand marshal Greg Carter of Vicious Cycles leading the charge.
The area around Continental Square was reserved for bike-only parking, and the downtown eateries and drinking establishments were packed. Some had their own Bike Night celebrations, such as the White Rose Tavern that offers entertainment in the lot behind their establishment. I opted to dine at one of the food stands in the Central Market, a historic building that takes up nearly an entire city block and filled with farm-to-market vendors and eateries.
Off to the races
Saturday marked the return of flat-track racing to the fairgrounds after a near 20-year absence. Steve Nace Racing Promotions formed the AMA-sanctioned American All Star national Flat Track Series in 2010 to take the place of the AMA Hot Shoe Series when it was discontinued, and the York race was the season’s finish this year. The event was named the Randy Texter Memorial Race after the owner of Lancaster H-D and national AMA number holder who died in 2010. His kids, Cory and Shayna, competed at the half-mile oval, with Cory taking top spot in the Expert Singles and Shayna, who crashed but restarted, earning sixth in the Pro Singles.
A series record of more than 160 entrants was set, and racing continued well into the afternoon. A total purse of $25,000 was awarded (including $5,000 for the Dash for Cash), with other first-place finishers including Jarod Vanderkoo in the 450 Amateur, Mike Poe for Pro Singles, Shane Livingston in Open Vintage, Junior Addison in 450 Open Singles Amateur, Rick Winsett Jr. for Veteran 30-Plus, Tristan Avery for 250 Amateur and Dane E. Delancey in Quad (four-wheelers). The Expert Twins was supposed to be the race day finale, but some of the riders had to head for the airport for the Santa Rosa races the next day, so it was moved up in the schedule. Matthew Weidman took top honors in Expert Twins, and he also won $2,500 in the Dash for Cash out of a field of six. Each of the winners was also awarded a custom engraved pewter plate.
In between races, I hung out in the pits checking out the bikes, including some Harleys that competed. The only one that placed in the top three of any class was the XR750 ridden by Justin Zeigler to take the Pro Twins class, but I was looking for the 1950 Flathead I saw in Open Vintage—the only tank-shifter competing that day. It belonged to Bill Burns from Fairfax, Virginia, who told me that he pieced the bike together himself from a hundred-dollar frame and used parts obtained from his friends. He told me he’s been racing the Flatty for seven years, and he’s finished in the top 10 every season. He’s raced other bikes, too, including a Sportster-Buell drag bike that he ran to win the Mid-Atlantic Nationals AHDRA at Budd Creek in 1998, and came in second in 2009. Bill says, “I built the Flathead to race cause the races last longer. I get more seat time!” He went on to say, “This race was very challenging, especially for me because of the lack of rear suspension on my antique bike. The turns were very rutted, but the straightaways were long, allowing good speed. I came in 18th out of 24. So much fun! I love it!”
On Sunday, White Rose Motorcycle Club presented an AMA professional hill climb in Jefferson, less than 20 miles southwest if you don’t get lost—which I did, but my scenic ride through that part of rural South Central Pennsylvania was quite enjoyable, nonetheless. When I finally made it to the club’s property—technically, in Spring Grove—the parking area was already packed with bikes. The hill is the steepest I’ve ever seen at a climb, plus a 17 percent grade slopes up almost immediately off the line, giving competitors virtually no time to gather speed. It was quite an exciting day, and the weather was the best of the weekend—blue skies with a few fluffy white clouds, a nice breeze and temps in the high 60s to low 70s.
The club has held hill climbs since 1952, with the races moving to the present location in 1956. The White Rose MC clubhouse next to the hill was built in 1964, with various renovations and expansions taking place throughout the years. The 300-foot hill has two breakers (jumps), adding plenty of excitement to the competition. And the bikes run on nitro-methane and/or nitrous oxide, adding to the ambiance.
I’m told the hill climbs had a huge crowd of about 4,200, with some of the extra attendance due to White Rose Thunder attendees showing up. Apparently the food stands ran out of sandwiches by 2:00 that afternoon. That said, it was a stellar day for both participants and spectators, enhanced by the knowledgeable race announcer who shared such informational tidbits as Phil Libhart’s 1970 T140 Triumph that runs 100 percent nitro and is the top competitor in a non-antique class.
Winners were, in this order, Jay Sallstrom with a best run of 7.269, Vincent Nuzzolilli, Colby McCutcheon, Alex Benner, Walter Strank Jr., Scott Wentz Jr., Philip Libhart, Greg Coyne, Chris Wahl, Todd Libhart, Michael Farnsworth with the only Harley in the top 14 (his family promotes the hill climbs at Laconia every year), Bryan Rusnak, John Koester and Jamie Sweitzer. We were all invited to nearby Goofy’s Eatery & Spirits after the races, where we could enjoy bluegrass music from 4:00 until 8:00, but I had to head home. Maybe next year.
Promoter Bob Adamson gave me an early estimate of 12,000 to 15,000 attendees at White Rose Thunder, which is great for a first-time event, considering the occasional rain and overcast skies that weekend. The partners are already in the planning stages for next year, and are discussing changes based on their experiences and attendee feedback from the inaugural rally.
Next year’s rally will probably still be four days, although it will most likely start later on Thursday rather than opening at 9:00 a.m. Sunday’s admission was dropped to $10 because it was a short day (everyone was encouraged to head out to Jefferson for the hill climbs), and there weren’t many organized activities in the afternoon. Aside from the one-day discount, I’d heard that many people weren’t pleased to pay $15 per day and then another $15 to attend the races on the property, nor were they happy about paying an additional $15 for Friday night’s concert. That said, both of those special events were very well attended and most who showed up felt they got their money’s worth.
Plans are in the works for two full days of flat-track racing, which was one of the most popular draws of the weekend. There is discussion about a weekend pass for next year, as well, with some sort of special pricing to include the races and concerts. I had a blast this year, and I’ve already marked my calendar for September 26–29, 2013. Check out www.whiterosethunder.com for more information as next year’s rally draws near.
Bike Show Winners
Best in Show: Paul Andrecola, Mt. Laurel, NJ—Bourget Limo
Best Paint: Kevin Kohler, Harrisburg, PA—2008 H-D Softail Custom
1st Best of Class: Ronnie Carriere, Quebec Canada—2006 H-D Road Glide, tied with Gary Duke, Manchester, PA—2012 H-D Road Glide
2nd Best of Class: Ed Taylor, Reading, PA—2011 H-D FLHX
Mild Custom Touring
Best of Class: Jack Beyer, Harrisburg, PA—2009 H-D Street Glide
Radical Custom (One-Off)
1st Best of Class: Jim Kirby, Severn, MD—2002 H-D Super Glide
2nd Best of Class: Denny Ritchie, Palmyra, PA—2010 Road Kill Custom
Manufactured Custom (H-D CVO, Iron horse, Big Dog, Boss Hoss, etc)
1st Best of Class: Fred & Penny Waltz, Spring Mills, PA—2009 H-D Rocker
2nd Best of Class: Rick Fetrow, Carlisle, PA—2003 IronHorse Chopper
Mild Custom (Metric)
1st Best of Class: John Reese, Rocky Ridge, MD—2000 Yamaha V Star
2nd Best of Class: Victor Calloway, Woodbridge, VA—2004 Honda NRX
Mild Custom (American)
1st Best of Class: Steve Hufnagle, Elkridge, MD—2002 H-D Super Glide
2nd Best of Class: Alan and Tanya Hudler, Forest Hill, MD—1992 H-D Softail
Original Stock—American or Metric
1st Best of Class: Larry Julius, Dover, PA—2006 H-D Road Glide
2nd Best of Class: Jennifer Hildebrant, Fredrick, MD—2012 Softail Deluxe
1st Best of Class: Edith Tasse, Quebec, Canada—2012 H-D Night Rod V-Rod
2nd Best of Class: Bob Pringle, Honeybrook, PA—2006 2X 1400
Three Wheeler (Trikes, sidecar or Spyder)
1st Best of Class: Keith Jones, Mechanicsburg, PA—2004 Boss Hoss
2nd Best of Class: Barbara Baynes, Middle River, MD—1999 H-D Sportster
1st Best of Class: Jack Deagazio, Syracuse, NY—1974 H-D bobber
2nd Best of Class: Jeff Carr, Mechanicsburg, PA—2008 RevTech bobber
Antique (25 Years Old—Mfg. 1987 or prior)
1st Best of Class: Rick Fetrow, Carlisle, PA—1947 H-D
2nd Best of Class: John Leach, Baltimore, MD—1948 Triumph
Theme/ Best Display in Show
Best of Class: Paul Andrecola, Mt. Laurel, NJ
Handcrafted Parts (American or Metric)
Best of Class: Steve Hamilton, Hanover, PA—Pirate Theme Bike
Best Rigid (American or Metric)
Best of Class: Jeff Carr, Mechanicsburg, PA
Judge’s Choice (American or Metric)
Best of Class: Steven Actor, Taneytown, MD—1952 H-D Panhead