The first Thunder in the Rockies bike rally took place over the weekend at the Ranch in Loveland, bringing together an estimated 20,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from Colorado and around the United States.
The event, which sprawled through the parking lots and grounds around the Budweiser Events Center, featured many attractions for the crowd including helicopter rides, motorcycle jumping, stunt events, live music, and vendors selling food, leather, jewelry, bike accessories and live tattooing.
"I thought it was well organized for a first year event," said information booth volunteer Jeff Wade of the Christian Motorcycle Association. "Next year will be even bigger and better. I think the public relations was great to prepare the community. Hopefully next year we won't have such an uphill battle, after the success this year."
Indeed, there was not much in the way of inappropriate behavior to report. While there were many alcohol distributors with booths set up, including a 30-foot tall inflatable bottle of tequila, the crowd remained calm and happy. Families toting infants mingled with bikers in leather jackets and the occasional group of CSU students.
But there plenty of bare flesh and cheap thrills, including the "Balls of Steel" stunt event, in which two brothers chased each other on bikes around an impossibly small steel sphere at top speed. Their father, the announcer, at one point actually stepped inside the cage as the boys whizzed around and over him.
The event was capped off with a concert Sunday night by the legendary rocker Alice Cooper, supported by Cheap Trick.
"It's really cool to have Cheap Trick opening," Cooper said in a recent interview. "It's always a great show."
It certainly was a great show on Sunday, giving a new meaning to the words "arena rock." While the sound in the Budweiser Center, usually a hockey rink, might leave something to be desired (especially towards the back), the full-blown theatrics of Cooper's set and onstage antics of Cheap Tricks's guitarist Rick Nielsen more than made up for it.
Constantly changing guitars and at one point waving to someone in the crowd that he claimed was the wife of one of AC/DC's members, Nielsen was enthusiastically animated during his band's set. He bounced between stacks of amps, covered in their trademark black and white check, at one point bringing out a guitar with not one, not two, but five necks!
After a short intermission, the fans filed back into the half-full arena and were treated to amazing renditions of Cooper classics such as "No More Mr. Nice Guy" and stoner anthem "School's Out," as well as tracks from his latest release, "Dirty Diamonds," on which he moves away from his concept albums and back towards his grittier, glam-rock roots.
In concert, Cooper's stage show rivaled that of KISS, minus the pyrotechnics. Along with multiple costume changes for himself and the band, the set included props such as a whip, a cane, a half-naked, gothic ballerina, an albino python and a life-size dummy of Alice Cooper himself, upright in a casket, complete with removable head!
After the concert a line of bikes of all shapes and sizes poured out of the Ranch, and the fun was over, at least until next year.