Bike rally ‘a real boost’ for community

First Pennsylvania Roundhouse Rally gets underway today

Thousands of people are expected to converge on downtown Altoona, Peoples Natural Gas Field and downtown Hollidaysburg as the first Pennsylvania Roundhouse Rally gets underway today.

“For the first year, I figure with the event totaling four days, we may have over 30,000 people. It depends on the weather,” said Bill Wilkinson, event co-founder.

The event is the brainchild of Wilkinson and David Burgmeier, owner of Burgmeier Hauling Inc.

“Dave and I go to a lot of bike rallies. It was something we wanted to do to give back to the area. We talked about it and said why not do it. This is all about bringing people in and supporting Altoona and Blair County. This is all about Altoona, not about Dave and me. We are enjoying this because of everything coming together,” Wilkinson said.

The Roundhouse Rally will include motorcycles, vendors, antique and classic cars, demo rides, military vehicles and entertainment.

“We see it as a real boost for our community. It will bring a lot of needed traffic into downtown Altoona and into Hollidaysburg, a lot of people who wouldn’t come otherwise. I think this will grow,” said sponsor Greg Sloan, owner of Five Star Mitsubishi and Five Star Powersports.

The rally is more than a motorcycle event.

“We have made it something for everyone,” Wilkinson said.

“It is designed to be very kid and family friendly. There are a lot of great events planned. There is a lot of stuff for family fun. This is motorcycle, family and kid friendly,” said sponsor Jake Denis, owner of City Beverage.

At least 50 vendors will be on hand during the event.

“There will be a lot of motorcycle-related vendors, a lot of food vendors as well as something for every interest,” Sloan said.

The event is expected to have a significant economic impact on the area.

“We know the local hotels are sold out; it will be hard for you to find a room,” Wilkinson said.

Explore Altoona views the Pennsylvania Roundhouse Rally as a complement to Thunder in the Valley, being held in Johnstown Thursday through Sunday.

“The multiple events being hosted by rally organizers will serve as additional activities for those staying overnight in Altoona during this time frame and will authentically present Blair County as a destination with a lot going on. We have invested marketing dollars as a regional destination marketing partner having had the Blair County Visitors Guide distributed at three motorcycle shows in Cleveland, New York City and Baltimore, focusing specifically on Altoona’s increased lodging capacity,” said Mark Ickes, executive director of Explore Altoona.

“We are investing social media dollars into Facebook banner ads and additional print placements for the Pennsylvania Roundhouse Rally specifically within Explore Altoona’s destination marketing partnership program,” he added.

Rally attendees will notice extra police and security.

“We will have additional officers working the event to ensure the safety of everyone attending. I am sure there will be an increase in traffic, but I don’t foresee it as anything crazy,” said Cpl. Thomas Venios, Altoona Police Department special events coordinator.

“We will have extra police, and we hired security people. We will have security around the clock,” Wilkinson said.

“We will probably have people from New York, New Jersey and the surrounding states of Pennsylvania. People who are involved with motorcycles like to travel; we like to go places,” Wikinson said.

Among the entertainment highlights, Josh Gallagher of “The Voice” fame will perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Peoples Natural Gas Field.

Part of the proceeds from the concert will be donated to Shriners Hospitals for Children and part to Sweat for Vets, a Blair County organization, Wilkinson said.

The 10th Avenue Expressway will be closed Saturday as American stunt performer and motorcycle jumping world record holder Bubba Blackwell will be on hand.

From 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday People’s Natural Gas Field will host a cruise in with the Blair County Antique Auto Club, and the Greater Pennsylvania Military Preservation Association will display military vehicles from all eras.

Officials hope to make this an annual event.

“Dave and I have a five-year plan. We want to make this grow. We have a lot of surprises for the future; we hope that people will embrace it,” Wilkinson said.

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