MONTE VISTA— Neither rain nor cold could keep party goers away from the first annual Thunder in the Valley Rally, held on Jefferson Street in front of Stars and Strikes Bowling in Monte Vista on Saturday, June 16.
The event was hosted by Brothers Keepers Motorcycle Club Chapter 19 to benefit the Veterans Coalition of the San Luis Valley— a nonprofit organization aimed at helping San Luis Valley veterans with issues such as benefit needs, education, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness and thoughts of suicide. “We searched all kinds of organizations to benefit,” says Brothers Keepers Chapter 19 treasurer Scott Deacon. “It seems like so many of the big organizations, when you give to them it goes to a big pot and then to someone in charge making six figures.”
Since the ad hoc formation of the veterans coalition committee in 2012, more than 1,000 veterans have been assisted in the Valley, some who were on the verge of suicide. “We are veterans helping veterans,” says Board President Richard Nagley, who describes the coalition as a resource that connects veterans to the help they need.
The rally kicked off Friday evening with a chill party at the Monte Vista Golf Club. Mike Rios of Dos Rios Restaurant cooked up $5 burgers and monster-sized hot dogs, while Fred Hargrove crooned and played acoustic guitar for about 50 lucky attendees.
The event got underway Saturday morning with a poker run that stopped at the Del Norte and Center fire departments and the Colorado State Veterans Center at Homelake. Each poker hand cost $20. Two hands were drawn in Del Norte, two in Center and one at the veterans center, with the winning proceeds to be split between the veteran’s center and poker-hand winner.
The event included a beer garden, food cooked up by Chef Charles and Gosar Natural Foods, metal art, t-shirts, a barrel-cart train for the kiddies and live pinstriping by local pinstriping legend Matt Beckner with ION graphics and his friend Muck Mulder from Denver. The Old School Band rocked the Stars and Strikes bar, and about 40 bowlers took advantage of the alley’s $1-a-game bowling that day.
There was also a “Thunder in the Valley” contest for motorcycles, with prizes given for first, second and third place; best in show and best paint. Prizes included handcrafted wooden trophies with Beckner’s Thunder in the Valley design laser-cut into the wood by Center craftsman Lyn Bogle. First place also won a flag that has been flown in front of the White House.
Entertaining events such as a slow race, barrel push and weenie eating contests were held later in the day, as the beer flowed. Contestants in the slow race drove their motorcycle as slow as possible without placing their feet on the ground. “It’s a really good exercise for driving skills,” Deacon says. In the barrel push, contestants pushed a barrel for about 50 feet. But the weenie eating contest was in a class by itself. Contestants had their passenger stand up while they drove their motorcycle under a dangling hot dog. The rider had to stretch up and take a bite of the hot dog. The rider who took the biggest bite out of the weenie won first place.
Deacon says Brothers Keepers has been planning the event since early March, when the Monte Vista Crane Festival was gearing up. Planning an event like this takes a lot of time and includes a lot of moving parts, he says. “We had different club members talking to businesses and people to encourage them to participate, sponsor and donate; and then we had family members volunteering.”
Chapter 19 President Matt Cordova says the event went well considering it was the first annual, and the cold, rainy weather probably kept some folks away. Upwards of 100 motorcycles made it to the event. One club rode the four hours from Denver. Other clubs came from Pueblo, Colorado Springs and the western slope. “We had a decent turnout and great feedback from everyone,” Cordova says.
All fun and comradery aside, the real reason for the event is highlighted as Deacon remembers a veteran who approach him on the poker run stop at the veteran’s center. “He said how awesome the event was. We were standing by a dragster and he shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you for doing this and bringing this to Monte Vista.’”
The Brothers Keepers Motorcycle Club Chapter 19 has 16 members who are either active or retired firefighters. “Our club is just a bunch of firefighters who help people,” Deacon says, “and then we decided to do a little more.”
Thanks to sponsors: Valley Wide Health Systems, Inc.; Monte Vista Chamber; City of Monte Vista; Rio Grande Savings and Loan; and Kunugi Farms.
Caption: Participants in the first Thunder in the Valley Rally ride into Monte Vista on June 23./Courtesy photo