The weekend is over and most of the motorcycles have rumbled out of town: Thunder Valley Rally successfully made it through its first year as a split-venue event, hosting revelers in Old Town and Riverfront Park — or, as it was known for the weekend, Freedom Bird Entertainment Park.
Though the numbers aren’t in yet, it’s fair to say many thousands made their way to the event. Last year’s TVR attracted over 8,500 people. On Saturday night, which featured headlining band Blue Öyster Cult, the majority of people interviewed expressed support for the split venue.
Brandon Detar, a local contractor, attended Friday’s concerts and said the arrangement appeared to work well.
“I heard nothing but awesome comments,” Detar said. “Everybody was saying, ‘There’s so much room over here.’ I thought it was pretty well put together.”
Robin Wilber, owner of #1 Foods in Clarkdale, praised the event for bringing in business. By Saturday morning, she reported a consistent level of bikers coming through from previous years. #1 Foods is in its fourth year as poker run stop, acting as a venue for that event and operating as a crossroads of sorts for bikers coming down from Prescott and going into Jerome.
“It’s good for us because it increases our business,” Wilber said. “We haven’t ever had any trouble.”
Vinnie Yatsinko, 17-year owner of Vinnie’s Pizza, expressed the opposite sentiment.
“It doesn’t really help me [but] we’re fortunate,” he said. “I’m lucky .... We have great customers and we’re busy. I don’t care if I get an extra person.”
However, Yatsinko is a rider and supports the event.
“I love it. I love the folks,” he said. “When I’m in here and they’re outside and the building’s rumbling, that’s a great feeling .... This is a nice rally. Keep it going.”
Not everyone was quite so ready to praise the event, however. A variety of respondents reported difficulty moving from Old Town to Riverfront, while a few business owners expressed doubt about the impact of having so many bikers moving through the area.
Jet Foley, owner of Rendezous in Old Town, also known as RIOT, expressed consternation about the split venue arrangement of this year’s event.
“It feels like you should be refining an event, not changing it completely every year,” she said. “I think there’s something wrong with the planning committee .... Whoever’s doing this is failing.”
According to Foley, there is a “50-50 split” between community members and business owners who are happy with the event and those who are not — far too many people with an ill view of the event to be a true benefit to the community.