JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Kim Knupp and her Yamaha crew worked all day Wednesday, unloading every type of motorcycle the company offers in preparation for demo rides at Johnstown’s Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally.
This is the first time the bike company has been back to the rally since 2019, and the crew is looking forward to the return.
“We’re very excited to be back,” said Knupp, Yamaha’s national events manager. “It’s always been a positive experience to be at the event.”
The Yamaha crew were among dozens of vendors preparing downtown for Thunder’s beginning on Thursday. The rally will run through Sunday.
Setting up food and clothing booths and demonstration sites, crews from nearby and outside the area pitched tents, built grills and hung attire all day.
This year, the Yamaha dealer is located in the Suppes Ford Biker Mall at the corner of Washington and Walnut streets. Knupp noted that the company is conveniently set up across from Five Star Powersports.
“We’ve got sport, the MTs, standard street bikes,” Knupp said. “We’ve got all bases covered.”
From 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, attendees can hop on Yamaha motorcycles and take the machines for test-drives. Protective gear and an at least one-year motorcycle endorsement are required.
“I was told last year was pretty big,” Jon Reid said. “We’re hoping this year is going to be bigger.”
Reid is with Bailey’s Concessions and was preparing 50-foot sites on Main Street and Gazebo Park to sell food and drinks to rally visitors. He said everybody from his group is excited for another year at Thunder.
“We love it,” he said.
Local resident Brian Buterbaugh waited in the shade on Wednesday to lend a hand to any vendor who needed it. Buterbaugh, a motorcycle fan, has taken a week off to attend Thunder each summer for more than five years now.
“I just get bored sitting around and came down here to help,” he said.
Buterbaugh said the vendors are appreciative of anyone willing to help. He spoke highly of the Johnstown rally and is interested in several events scheduled between Thursday and Sunday, including the Beaverdale Hillclimb and a ride to the old Cresson Sanatorium and SCI-Cresson site to explore the grounds.
‘Great show for us’
“This is one of our favorites because it’s close,” Teal Treasures owner Audrey Kromel said. “It’s always a great show for us.”
The Blairsville vendor specializes in men’s and women’s motorcycle apparel and accessories, from shirts and belts to bandanas, hats and jewelry. Kromel said she’s been setting up a booth at Thunder in the Valley for the past six years and the rally always has great attendance.
“I’m looking for great weather, big crowds, good sales,” she said.
Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.