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Thunder In The Valley signs southern rockers Molly Hatchet


Tom Lavis tlavis@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — The world’s largest biker bar is returning to Johnstown in a big way for this year’s Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally.

During a press conference Wednesday, Lisa Rager, executive director of Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau, also announced a major concert featuring Southern rockers Molly Hatchet, who will anchor an already stellar lineup of entertainment.

The announcements came as the convention and visitors bureau and its partners gathered at Peoples Natural Gas Park in preparation for welcoming more than 200,000 motorcycle enthusiasts June 20-23. Jayne Korenoski, the visitors bureau’s advertising and sales director, outlined other Thunder in the Valley attractions that will provide a variety of entertainment, food and fun. “We once again will be welcoming national and regional bands to Thunder 2013,” Korenoski said. “We believe we have increased the event’s excitement level by welcoming Molly Hatchet.”

Korenoski said the group has enjoyed a variety of success and shared stages with the likes of Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and more. The band has been going strong since the 1979 release of what many think is its signature song and bikers’ anthem, “Flirtin’ with Disaster.” Stages will be located at Peoples Natural Gas Park, the train station, Central Park and the biker mall.

Rager welcomed Robert Cappadona, general manager of Broken Spoke Saloon, who promised more entertainment, a new tavern and an additional stage. Broken Spoke Saloon, which boasts locations at the world’s largest motorcycle rallies, is appreciative of the partnership formed during last year’s rally and promised that his company will “raise the bar” during the event. Broken Spoke owns properties in Sturgis, S.D.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Daytona Beach, Fla.; and Laconia, N.H., and counts Johnstown as one of its most distinctive rallies.

“Thunder is a lot more family-oriented, and we don’t see that at any of the other rallies,” Cappadona said. “Locations such as Sturgis, Laconia and Daytona rely on attracting bikers from all over the country, but while Johnstown does attract a lot of bikers, it has a more intimate appeal.” “Broken Spoke will utilize several areas of the park as well as establishing a tavern at the biker mall area, which was eliminated by the CVB last year,” Rager said. They also will have an expanded presence at the train station, where the Jagermeister stage will be rolled into place to accommodate Molly Hatchet for its June 22 appearance. American Spirits West; Southern Wine and Spirits, the nation’s leading wine and spirits distributor, is sponsoring the stage.

Robert Romanish, division director, said he is pleased with the partnership with Thunder in the Valley and will feature signature drinks associated with Jagermeister. Broken Spoke will handle all beer pub concessions, and pricing will be in line with last year. “We also are featuring our professional bartenders,” said Cappadona. “We will be bringing back our signature swings and the fire-eating bartender.” As an added attraction, riders visiting the rally will be able to participate in the Motorcycle Cowboy Rodeo, which involves performing a variety of stunts. Natalie Kurchak, marketing director for Atlantic Broadband, said that free WiFi service will be available at Peoples park and the train station. “We also will be auctioning off a guitar signed by members of Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Kurchak said.

Chris Callen, editor of Cycle Source magazine, said he has been telling his 60,000 subscribers about motorcycle rallies all over the country for 16 years, but relishes the idea of returning to his “hometown” area to tell the story about “one of the biggest bike shows in the country.” Callen, a native of Tarentum, Westmoreland County, said Thunder offers visiting motorcyclists something they can’t find at most rallies. “Riding the winding roads through the mountains is very special, and the views are spectacular,” Callen said. “Take a 100-mile bike trip here and you experience different terrain, a wonderful countryside and a lot of history.”

On June 21, the entertainment will be a day-long tribute to the Legends of Pittsburgh Music. Scheduled to perform are rockers Norman Nardini, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, and the Jimmy Adler Band. “And returning by popular demand will be the Jake and Elwood Revue,” Korenoski said.

Also returning is Rock DeMarco, the world’s fastest painter.

“The rally brings millions of dollars to the area each year through visitor spending,” Rager said. “I thinks it’s going to be another great year for Thunder in the Valley.”

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