‘Motorcycles are a different world’
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent June 11, 2012 2:40PM
Spectators pass by the many bikes being judged during the 24th annual Valpo Fest held at the Porter County Expo Center in Valparaiso, Ind., May 27, 2012. | Jim Karczewski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2012 6:02AM
In a matter of weeks, Tom Witmer turned a Harley Davidson that was literally a “basket case” — he purchased its pieces in five baskets — into a show bike, complete with a trailer made from a Jack Daniels barrel and faux alligator seat and trim.
He purchased the 1968 XLCH in July 2010, and had it ready to show that year at Blueberry Festival Labor Day weekend in Plymouth.
“I had a vision,” the Plymouth resident said. “I wanted old style but with the new on it.”
About 10,000 people got the chance to check out Witmer’s bike and scads of others during the 24th annual Valpo Fest, held May 27 at the Porter County Expo Center.
Irfan Gill, owner of Paragon Leather and Paragon Promotions in Kalamazoo, Mich., has put on the show for the past 21 years. The event, one of 14 he puts on throughout the Midwest, included more than 100 vendors, a motorcycle and car show, a bike rodeo, music and a magic show.
The show is growing, as is interest in motorcycles.
“Gas is one reason but not the only reason,” Gill said. “Once people get into motorcycles, it’s more fun. Plus, motorcycles are a different world.”
People take pride in their bikes, the feeling of riding on them, and the lifestyle they offer, Gill said.
“They love these kinds of events, especially a bike show,” he said. “People work on their bikes all year and love to show off their bikes.”
Dennis Nicodemus started riding about a year ago. Bike shows offer spare parts for bikes, though he didn’t have much luck finding parts for his newer Harley Road King.
“It’s just to meet people,” the South Bend resident said of the shows, adding he’s made acquaintances through the events.
For some folks, going to a bike show isn’t about the destination, but about the journey. Mark Foster came to Valpo Fest for the fourth time with a group of friends.
“I just come for the ride from Indianapolis,” he said.