MountainFest wraps up with Blessing of the Bikes

MORGANTOWN — Please, God, no gravel.

Or potholes, fouled plugs or sideways rain.

And deliver me, please, if You can, from giant trucks riding this close to my rear wheel.


So went the prayer (paraphrased) that Jim Radcliff delivered Sunday morning to a handful of faithful in the parking lot of Triple S Harley-Davidson, at The Gateway.

The occasion was the annual MountainFest Motorcycle Rally — the 2018 edition of the gathering throttled down Sunday — and Radcliff wanted to include divine directions for the den-izens heading back to their lives off two wheels.

“Lord, we ask that you get them home safe,” Radcliff said. “You’ve always been there to pick us up.”

Radcliff delivered the main prayer for Blessing of the Bikes ceremony, which is the traditional sendoff for the rally.

Another faith group, Bikers for Christ, held a similar blessing the day before in the parking lot of the WVU Coliseum.

Radcliff has long blended his faith with four-stroke engines. The telecommunications reti-ree is president of the Weston, Lewis County chapter of the Christian Motorcyclists Association (CMA).

The CMA has 14 chapters in West Virginia and everywhere else, with nearly 200,000 volunteer members worldwide who preach to the two-wheeled choir at every opportunity.

“We get to share our faith with the motorcycle community,” he said.

Every year since 2004, versions of that community have encamped at Mylan Park and surrounding environs for the rally.

Motorcycle diaries

The din of MountainFest is the unmistakable, get-yer-motor-runnin’ roar of a V-Twin, air-cooled engine attached to a powder-coated frame, two wheels and handlebars.

The backdrop of MountainFest is row after row of teardrop-shaped gas tanks, with their 3-D-looking finishes winking in the sun.

Or, as so often has been the case over 14 years, dripping water in the rain.

Mother Nature went full-tilt Motorcycle Mama for this outing, said Jamie Summerlin, who leaned

into the rally through his role as director of major events and destinations at the Greater Morgantown Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Summerlin spent a marketing weekend working at MountainFest.

“The weather couldn’t have been more perfect,” he said of the weekend of idling temperatures and high-beam sun.

“And our crowds couldn’t have been bigger,” he said.

Music is always a main draw of MountainFest, and concerts by Alabama, Bret Michaels, Montgomery Gentry and The Davisson Brothers Band brought in big crowds.

Two-wheeled metrics

Going in, Summerlin said advance ticket sales for the rally were 30 percent up from last year. Final attendance numbers will be culled this week, he said.

MECCA 911, Monongalia County’s emergency dispatch center, reported no major accidents or serious arrests this year — although a cyclist did suffer compound leg fractures in a Grafton Road crash around 5 p.m. Sunday.

His name and condition weren’t immediately available.

In the meantime, Moun-tainFest amassed more than 500,000 visits through the gates at Mylan Park and other venues during its 14-year run, as it reports on its web site.

A total of $970,000 was contributed to charitable causes through MountainFest activities, the site further reports.

Kickstand commitment

Sometimes, rally-goers invest in each other. At least two weddings took place at MountainFest over the years.

This year, Bobby Hovatter revved up an engagement ring for Angie Loudermilk.

He’s a Morgantown native, and she hails from Georgia.

“Up here, I say, ‘close to Marietta,’ she said, “because nobody knows where Powder Springs is.”

“They do now,” her fiancé said.

They have motorcycles, politics and a shared sense of humor in common.

The couple met on Facebook, in fact, in a group discussing presidential politics.

“I said, ‘Are you stalking me?’ ” Loudermilk asked.

“And I said, ‘Yes,’ ” came Hovatter’s reply.

They don’t have a wedding date yet, but when they say, “I do,” it won’t be at MountainFest, Loudermilk said.

“My family wouldn’t go for that,” she said, laughing.

The couple also rides in tandem with religious faith. That’s why Hovatter was having his relatively new Harley blessed Sunday.

It’s relatively new because last June, Hovatter’s then-bike was totaled. Two wheels-versus-four. The crash left him splayed out on Hartman Run Road.

He had a lengthy hospital stay with a litany of injuries, some serious.

The other person involved, Hovatter said, was frantic: “He kept asking me, ‘What do you need me to do? What do you need me to do?’ I said, ‘Could you call an ambulance?’”

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