Thunder in the Valley - June 25-28, 2015

Thunder in the Valley® History

Thunder in the Valley® is taking the Northeastern United States by storm. The event is being compared to larger rallies in the country. In the September 1999 issue of Cycle Source magazine, writer Shelley Angelo said, "Thunder in the Valley® has more of a Sturgis, Daytona, or Laconia atmosphere." Thunder in the Valley® is quickly becoming the event many bikers are adding to their summer event itinerary. In the August 2002 issue of Keystone Motorcycle Press, writer Pamela Collins referred to Johnstown's rally as "the little rally that could...and has."

Thunder in the Valley® began in 1998 when local motorcycle dealers approached the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) about holding a rally in Johnstown, a mid-sized metropolitan area nestled in the scenic Allegheny Mountain range. The dealers needed an organization that had the resources and expertise to turn their idea into reality. The CVB was convinced the rally was a great opportunity to showcase the region and boost the area's growing tourism industry. No one doubted that Johnstown was the perfect setting for bikers seeking new riding opportunities on routes that traverse the Johnstown Region's lush, green mountainous terrain.

Within a month a committee was formed to organize the first rally in Johnstown. The twenty-one-person committee consisted of motorcycle dealers, clubs, motorcycle enthusiasts and CVB staff members. The group only had six months to prepare for the new event. With a small budget of only a few thousand dollars, the CVB crafted a savvy marketing strategy to attract bikers to the region. Focus was placed on attracting cyclists from the surrounding area in a grassroots advertising effort. Flyers, radio advertising, and word of mouth were instrumental tools in getting the information out to potential visitors. The CVB's website,, was also utilized as a main source of information. The first year's effort resulted in an estimated attendance of 5,000 bikers. Johnstown's first motorcycle rally was a success.

The event quickly gained momentum. Potential sponsors quickly became aware of the outstanding opportunities Thunder could provide in their effort to reach a broad audience. As a result Thunder in the Valley's® advertising budget grew to $20,000. The increased budget enabled the CVB to attract a much bigger and more diverse crowd. Print ads were purchased in Thunder Press, Cycle Source magazine, Keystone Motorcycle Press and Motorcycle Monthly magazine. Committee members handed out flyers promoting the rally at various swap meets, rallies and events along the Atlantic Coast. Additionally, an ad was placed in Pennsylvania's official visitors guide, a high-quality publication reaching more than 750,000 people, most of whom request the guide through the state's 1-800-VISIT-PA number in response to Pennsylvania's tourism marketing campaign.

The CVB's expanded advertising strategy was a success. Inquiries poured in to the bureau office from all over the United States. Vendors from as far south as Florida were called daily to reserve space. Bikers logged onto the CVB's website to obtain lodging information and event details.

On Friday, June 25, 1999, Johnstown swarmed with bikers coming for the second annual Thunder in the Valley®. The event's attendance increased two fold. More than 10,000 bikers participated in activities ranging from the popular bike parade to the biker games of skill. More than fifty vendors were stationed at various sites selling everything from motorcycle parts to leather goods. Thunder was on a roll.

In just ten short years, Thunder in the Valley® has grown to host over 125 vendors and 200,000+ bikers. New featured entertainment, events and venues allowed Thunder 2007 to be the most successful it has ever been.

Much of Thunder's success can be attributed to the manner in which Johnstown has embraced the rally. Residents young and old mix and mingle with visiting bikers. Businesses place "welcome bikers" signs at their entrances. Thunder is not just a rally that is held in Johnstown; Thunder is Johnstown's rally. The CVB has received a tremendous level of support and cooperation in its effort to produce Thunder. From city officials, to area police departments, government representatives and area businesses, nearly everyone is firmly behind the rally. This combination of local and government support is vital to sustaining and growing Thunder into the future. The Johnstown region realizes that Thunder in the Valley® provides a significant economic boost to the local economy and a tremendous opportunity to showcase Johnstown as a tourist destination.

For a free Johnstown visitors guide, directions and information on lodging, camping, events, or vending, submit a request using our online contact form or contact the Greater Johnstown Convention & Visitors Bureau toll-free at 1-800-237-8590. You can also email us at jstcvb(at)


All Thunder in the Valley® events are subject to change or cancellation without notice or postings on the website.

© 2008 Visit Johnstown & Cambria County Convention & Bureau