MORGANTOWN, W.V., JULY 24-28–West Virginia MountainFest has become a staple of my summer and a must-do for over 50,000 other riders. The event has always taken place at multiple locations around Morgantown including the host dealership, Triple S Harley-Davidson. This year the dealership’s new location, just off Exit 155 of I-79 at the top of Willie G Drive, helped newcomers take in all the event had to offer. You can’t get to MountainFest without passing the entrance to the new Triple S, and eventually you would have to pull in and test out the serpentine road leading up to the brand-new facility at the top.
Clearly no expense was spared in creating the new Triple S enterprise from the site work to the stone fireplace with leather couches inside the dealership. It’s first class with the rugged appeal of a West Virginia mountain lodge. Free entertainment kicked off at Triple S on Thursday with Jimi Hendrix tribute band Jamiah on Fire and the Red Machine, Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir and Bad Mother Trucker. All this was enhanced by onsite vendors featuring food, custom pinstriping, apparel, as well as the High Seas Rally display.
The Sergeant Todd S. May Memorial Weekend was also in full recruitment mode at Triple S. Sgt. May, also an avid motorcyclist, lost his life on duty while pursuing a suspected DUI in 2012 and was posthumously recognized during last year’s MountainFest activities. Memorial bracelets, T-shirts and raffle tickets were available for purchase with proceeds going toward a college scholarship in Sgt. May’s honor. The weekend memorial that included a run was held on August 9 in conjunction with the Triple S grand reopening.
Other Triple S activities during MountainFest ran the gamut from a MountainFest wedding, the Flaunt Girls, perennial favorites the Davisson Brothers Band to new favorites the Bastard Bearded Irishmen. A Christian Motorcyclists Association bike blessing and more live music wrapped up the activities at Triple S on Sunday.
The volunteers at the Triple S parking lot busted their humps to keep traffic moving and help everyone get in and out with minimal confusion. They helped riders in groups park in groups and filled in voids with single riders.
A few short miles west of Triple S is Mylan Park, the home of MountainFest, the Coal Bucket Saloon and the nearby Camp MountainFest. We’ll start with the basics: Adults can buy a three-day pass in advance for $35, kids ages 13–20 are $15 for three days and 12 and under are free. You can buy single-day tickets and tickets at the gate too. Camping is not included. Proceeds from MountainFest, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, benefit Mylan Park, also a 501(c)(3).
This year’s general admission ticket to the Mylan Park portion of MountainFest included admission to the Coal Bucket Saloon. Each night featured a different headliner on the MountainFest main stage. Thursday night featured Jackyl with Jesse James Dupree, Friday night featured Three Dog Night, while Saturday featured Foghat and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on the main stage, all playing to packed crowds. I had the chance to meet Joan Jett and I have to say, it was pretty cool.
The Coal Bucket Saloon is, well, a saloon under a giant tent. Part Hogs & Heifers, part Sturgis and part pure MountainFest, The Coal Bucket featured a long bar, a stage and a simulcast of the big acts on the MountainFest main stage, as well as its own entertainment including the Blizzard of Ozzy tribute band, Bag Lady Sue, late-night contests and games hosted by Jack Shit and just about every act that played at Triple S rotated in at some point, plus a few more. Cigar sales rounded out the activities.
The MountainFest midway included vendors of everything from dyno tuning to hot tubs. I walked away in a new pair of boots, had patches sewn on my vest and bought another “Wild Bill’s” commemorative mug on Saturday as my contribution to the economy. The midway also offered free performances by aerial motorcycle artist Circus Una and Wall of Death performances by the Ives Brothers.
I am a self-described Wall of Death geek. I follow it way more closely than anyone who doesn’t do trick riding should and so I was eager to see how the brothers Ives had progressed since seeing them last year. Good news—they’re doing a great job and have added several new twists that preserve and enhance the traditions of the motordrome.
The coolest new twist is the $20 T-shirt, delivered to you by a wall-riding Ives Brother! As a spectator, you hand out your Jackson, they ride up and snatch it out of your hand as all good wall riders do, then they dip down, grab a shirt and ride back up to deliver it to you. I’ve never seen people smile so widely while spending 20 bucks before. Dad Shawn Ives invited me into the pit to take some pictures during one of the shows. I just love it in there. And the brothers shake hands with each spectator on the way out.
The Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center featured a custom builders showcase throughout the event that included Southeastern Customs, Doomtown Choppers, Pandemonium, Hugh’s Handbuilt, Led Sled Customs, Justified Defiance and more. The 13th annual Cycle Source Custom Chopper Show was held indoors Saturday as well. The ride-in show featured a stunning array of bikes and many had to brave foul weather to get there. There were customs, cafés, chops, show bikes and antiques. There was everything from the self-styled ’68 Sportster of father and son Jacob and Jarrad Haddix of Phillipi, West Virginia, complete with actual stirrups for the passenger, to a pair of no-expenses-spared Boss Hosses owned by Colleen Harmon and Jim Barron. The Boss Hosses were built by Mountain Boss Hoss in Somerset, Pennsylvania, with outstanding paintwork by Chris Cruz. The show offered 56 trophies in 20 classes.
Other activities inside the community center included art shows, tattoo artists, raffles and vendors. Did anyone else almost walk into the large mirror on the Coal Bucket Saloon end of the community center thinking it was another room? C’mon, be honest!
A strongman show was featured on Saturday, sponsored by Bikers for Christ. Several strong men and women performed steel-bending and rock-lifting exhibitions, but the highlight had to be “Skinny” Jimmy Basnett. He attached a tow strap to each arm, the other end of which was connected to a Harley. On his signal the two bikes gunned it, the result of which might have been Skinny Jimmy being pulled in half, save for the strength of Skinny Jimmy. While tires smoked and engines screamed he held his ground and the crowd went nuts.
Saturday also featured the Parade of Bikes and Bike Blessing. Threatening skies did have an impact on riders and spectators, but a variety of bikes and trikes were enjoyed by those who participated in the ride from the Coliseum into downtown. The afternoon was marred by a traffic fatality on the road into Mylan Park involving a non-rally-going motorcyclist, closing it to traffic for a time. It was a stark reminder of our mortality. Afterwards, it seemed everyone’s parting words were “be safe” for the rest of the rally.
My unscientific survey of riders at the rally gave the event an overall thumbs up. One couple that had ridden to MountainFest from Colorado as part of the International Association of Fire Fighters Motorcycle Group thought it was great. MountainFest was the official site of their national rally. They were excited by the riding the area offered and the entertainment at the rally. Their group was represented by over 500 riders in attendance.
The $1,500 best hand in the BFS Poker Run was won by Lina Mayle of Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. The $500 worst hand was awarded to Tim Cayton of Morgantown. BFS is a regional convenience store chain and a longtime sponsor of the poker run.
In my experience, the community really embraced the rally this year, offering specials and incentives for riders to patronize them. Our hotel even put out boxes of towels each day for use on our bikes.
According to the MountainFest Facebook page, it appears next year’s West Virginia MountainFest will be held July 23–27, instead of July 16–20 as originally posted in the rally guide. Check for updates at www.wvmountainfest.com as it gets closer.