JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Ever since he was a kid, Jim R. Kalb has dreamed of riding the Hot Nights, Cool Lights Motorcycle Parade in Thunder in the Valley.
Every year his parents would take him to the top of the incline to watch the riders on their lighted machines zip through town.
This year, the 18-year-old from Irwin saw that dream come true as he and his father, Jim D. Kalb, prepared their Honda VTX 1800 and Yamaha V Star 650 for the trip from The Fifth Local Eatery and Alehouse on Scalp Avenue at Peoples Natural Gas Park downtown.
“Hearing everything up close – the noisy engines – that’s all I ever wanted,” the young Kalb said.
For his father, sharing the experience is just as rewarding.
“I don’t know who’s more excited because he’s always wanted to do this his whole life and I’ve always wanted to bring him along,” Jim D. Kalb said.
Runners from all over filled the Fifth parking lot beginning at 5 p.m. in preparation for the parade.
Food and drinks were provided by the local restaurant and food trucks, along with live music.
This was the first year the restaurant in Richland Township hosted the event, but the owners were thrilled to do so.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” said co-owner Corey Crocco, “but we’re happy so far. … We are thrilled to launch Thunder, officially, in the Fifth.
He added that when he and his partners learned that rally organizers were looking for a new home for the parade, they jumped at the chance.
“I think Thunder is great for this city,” Crocco said.
The group of riders lined up at 7:00 p.m. and at 9:30 p.m. began their journey through the city, where a light-up bike show and afterparty awaited them at PNG Park.
Local motorcycle enthusiasts Don Maldet and his brother, Mick Maldet, have participated in the parade every year since its inception.
“I like to ride all the bikes,” said Mick Maldet. “I look forward to it every year.”
“We are bikers,” added his brother. “What could be better?”
Mick had his Honda 750 ready to go and Don had his Honda Shadow 750 Deluxe waiting.
Both men plan to attend several other Thunder events this weekend, including Saturday’s Grand Thunder Parade.
For Johnstown resident Justin Wirick, this is his third year at Hot Nights, Cool Lights, and he’s been looking forward to it this time as much as the first.
“When all the lights are on, going down the hill…it’s so cool,” he said.
Wirick was joined for the ride by Krista Todd, who was also excited to participate.
“It’s nice to be part of something so big in small town Johnstown,” she said.
The duo had a Harley-Davidson Street Glide to ride and were happy the weather was good for this year’s parade – Thursday had a high in the upper 70s and clear skies.
Thunder in the Valley events continue through Sunday.
Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.