JOHNSTOWN - Thunder in the Valley is widely known as one of the largest biker rallies in the nation. But for local businesses, the event is a chance to maximize profits by catering to and capitalizing on the large crowds.
And many have done just that.
Large crowds, plentiful vendors and nice weather are among many reasons why this year's Thunder in the Valley turnout was likely the largest the area has ever seen, Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown and Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.
Rager said the great turnout helped businesses tremendously.
"Direct visitors' spending is substantial," she said. "There's tens of thousands of dollars being put into the local economy."
Much of the spending occurs before the official start of Thunder in the Valley begins, Rager said.
"People come in, they stay here for a few days. Some buy a new bike," she said.
Zepka Harley Davidson owner Tom Zepka said his store in Richland Township receives about 10 times as much business during Thunder in the Valley, compared to any other time of year.
"It's like Christmas in June," he said.
Although Zepka has a booth set up among other vendors, in the city and closer to the larger crowds, he said his store along Eisenhower Boulevard has received the most traffic.
"They're coming in and out," he said. "Part of [bikers] pilgrimage is to go to the town's Harley shop and get something."
The Phoenix Tavern has also witnessed a boost in sales - largely from their booth downtown where it sold wings, refreshments and a new item, chicken balls - owner David Sapolich said.
"Our booth made as much money yesterday as we did at the tavern, so it doubled our income," he said.
With his dining area near capacity around lunchtime, Szechuan Restaurant Owner Sam Chen said that he has capitalized on the influx of people by selling drinks to people who want to visit for a short break from the rally.
"We have everybody come here. They come in and grab a drink or grab a beer. It's good for us," he said adding that during such a large event, it's important to maintain fair business practices by keeping prices reasonable.
"When businesses raise prices, it's not good," Chen said. "You shouldn't take advantage of the event."
Melissa Radovanic, director of sales and marketing at Crown American Hotels in Johnstown, said that the Holliday Inn staff tries to capitalize on the rally by offering beer and refreshments on the Patio at their restaurant, Harrigan's Cafe & Wine Deck.
The Holliday Inn is sold out for each day during Thunder in the Valley, Radovanic said.
"Typically we don't see that during the week," she said. "If we could [hold Thunder in the Valley] once a month, I would love it."