There are a ton of little pieces that need to come together to pull off a successful event. From the core team, attaining sponsor support and like-minded vendors, the awesome attendees, and the utilization of social media to help create a buzz, lots of these can feel at least somewhat under your control. But the final piece, the one thing completely out of anyone’s control, is the weather. You have to plan and promote with the hopes that the Chopper Gods are on your side for the weekend. All of these critical components came into play for the 16th Annual David Mann Chopper Fest. Event Coordinator Tory DuVarney worked endlessly to attain sponsorship and live music acts. Sean McKean invited some of the best artists to take part in the David Mann and Friends Art Show and is the vendor liaison. I recruited artists to take part in the Biltwell Helmet Show and assist with the social media cross-promotion. Matt Grayson organized the van section, bringing additional eye-candy with some of the best custom vans around. Christina DuVarney and her excellent on-site team help place the vendors and welcome the general public with grace. They are a well-oiled machine that never misses a beat and eliminates issues with ease! Last but not least is sweet Jennifer Santolucito, who keeps the party going with her top-notch hosting capabilities.
Over the years, we have had some of the best weather possible, but Mother Nature had a different plan for the 16th Annual Chopper Fest. You see, it started raining on Monday and never stopped. The chance of rain went from 50 to 100 percent at any given time. Tory had to make the difficult decision to either postpone or cancel the event altogether. He chose to go on to help the artists and vendors who traveled to attend the show. Some vendors took the opportunity to set up on Saturday, while others lined super early Sunday morning to tackle the rain. Another wrench thrown at the team was corralling everyone into the area as the fairgrounds booked another event on the same day. But if you know The DuVarneys, you know issues are never problems, they are an opportunity to tackle and overcome.
I helped man the bike show registration for the first time since working with the Chopper Fest. I want to thank the first few registers for their patience while I figured out the tasks at hand. I also need to thank my husband Duane for setting up the ChopCult booth on my behalf. The looming clouds began to disburse right before the general admission gates opened at eight am, and the sun started peeking through the clouds. We dealt with a few micro bursts of drizzle, and then in true Chopper Fest fashion, the show went on as planned: attendees lined the front gate, the vendor and swap meet areas were buzzing, the bike show area filled up, and the art show area was packed. The only missing piece of the puzzle was the live music. Tory had to make the difficult call to eliminate their performances for human safety reasons, aka electricity and water don't mix. Jennifer handled MC’ing with grace (like she does year after year) and performed a few songs with some of her dear friends. Artist Kayla Kounes painted a Biltwell Gringo and donated the proceeds from a month long raffle to the Jessi Combs Foundation. She announced the winner on stage before the award ceremony began. Tory and his father, David, started the award ceremony a bit earlier so everyone could head home and Sonny Boy's one-off trophies were a hit! Congratulations to all of the winners and to Dalton Walker for taking home the best of show award and the $2500 check from Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Charlie Brechtel's family, extended family, and friends during this difficult time. Charlie took to the stage on numerous occasions, and the Chopper Fest team is forever grateful for his friendship and support. Rest in peace, Good Time Charlie.
Big thanks to Johnathon Martin for photographing the event.
Fast forward to today, and our world, as we know it today, is in a state of disarray. Businesses are closing, events are canceled due to the stay-at-home orders in effect, people are losing jobs, and the future holds many uncertainties. Hopefully, the Chopper Gods will hear our prayers, and every artist, craftsman, fabricator, builder, and business will survive this pandemic and join us on December 13th for the 17th Annual Chopper Fest. Until that day happens, please stay safe and healthy.
Lisa / @lisamballard