By WARREN DILLAWAY - email@example.com
Local businesses are happy to see thousands of motorcycles roll into the village every year for Thunder on the Strip. The event extends the tourist season for one full week.
“This (the strip) would be empty if it wasn’t for this,” said Marge Milligan, president of the Geneva-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce.
“It extends the season a full week. Every cottage is full, every hotel room is taken. Most people got their reservations a year ago because they know there won’t be any rooms available,” she said.
The Thunder on the Strip 7th Annual Fall Bike Rally is off to a good start, said Jake Hummel, owner of Sportsterz Bar and Grill and co-founder of the event with Dwayne Bennett.
“So far, so good. The weather is cooperating. We haven’t had too much luck with the weather in the last couple of years,” Hummel said while the music of the Lost Sheep Band could be heard from a stage at the back of Sportsterz.
Hummel said the bulk of the motorcycle riders come from within a few hundred miles of the village, but there are some that visit from states across the country.
“We do get some random people. We had people come up from Florida last year,” he said.
Hummel said planning for the event is a huge job and includes the GOTL police, fire, village council and the chamber of commerce to name a few.
“There is a lot of logistics involved. We’ll start within a month for next year,” he said.
Hummel said the history of area motorcycle events in the 1960s was initially a deterrent to the event, but area residents and visitors realize today’s motorcycle riders are different. “I think it hurt us at first,” he said of a rally that ended in a riot in the 1960s near GOTL.
Visitors said the event is an excellent experience and everybody seems to get along.
“It’s a really nice event,” said Rick Darby, owner of Cherry Valley Choppers, located in Richmond Township, that sets up a booth for the event.
“It lets people know we are out there. A lot of local people benefit,” he said.
Darby, in his 60s, said the motorcycle lifestyle gives older riders something to do.
“Who wants to be old and sit around watching TV,” he said.
Art Kula, 72, got his first motorcycle in 1955 and still enjoys bikes and tinkering with them.
Randy and Brenda Leymarie, of Milton, Pa., come to the Thunder on the Strip every year. “We have a place in Conneaut Lake,” Randy Leymarie said.
“We just like coming up here and riding around the lake,” Brenda Leymarie said.
One of the biggest attractions of the weekend will occur tonight at 10 p.m. when Skid Row takes to a special stage at Sportsterz. “We try to have one big event that’s a draw. We hope to draw people who don’t even ride motorcycles,” Hummel said.
Music acts begin at 11 a.m. this morning and continue throughout the day at a variety of stages along the strip. Trevor Vines Extreme Freestyle Moto X will perform in the vendor’s area at 2 p.m. and the Harley-Davidson “Contraband” stunt team will perform at 5 p.m. at Goblin Custom Cycle.