By TIM LATSHAW
OBSERVER Assistant News Editor
GOWANDA - The roar of engines. The glint of chrome. The smell of leather. It's Hollywood Happening time in Gowanda again.
OBSERVER Photo by Tim Latshaw
Bikes and riders alike filled West Main Street for the opening of the 12th Annual Hollywood Happening in Gowanda Friday evening.
Hundreds of motorcycles descended from the Gowanda Harley-Davidson, crossed the Veterans' Memorial Bridge and parked on West Main Street to kick off the 12th annual event in support of restoring the Historic Hollywood Theater.
Following the parade of bikes, opening ceremonies were held at the main stage behind the theater, decorated with motorcycles and a massive American flag. At a glance, the village's efforts in recovering from last year's devastating floods do not appear to have had an effect on the festival's turnout or offerings.
"This community has really pulled together to survive and we continue to have an event like this take place," Mark Burr, festival organizer and head of the theater restoration project, said. "We're very proud of this community and very proud of everybody who is here to support our efforts to restore this theater. It's been a lot of work; I welcome you to walk through the theater and take a look at what we've done."
Gowanda Central School student Kimberly Merrill sang the national anthem and Gowanda Mayor Dick Klancer, following a greeting to the audience, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
State Assemblyman Joseph Giglio and Cattaraugus County Legislator Crystal Abers also gave some words, thanking those who support the festival and the people who have continued to raise funds and work on restoring the theater.
"They had the vision took the opportunity to take this 1920s building from the past and turn it into something that our future - we and our grandchildren - will be able to enjoy," Abers said.
Substantial sponsors and patrons Gowanda Harley-Davidson, Wolf's Run and Gernatt Asphalt were also recognized. It was announced that Wolf's Run owner William Parry will soon attempt a feat that may further help the theater along financially, taking part in the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Run June 20. The run takes an unknown route from Key West, Florida to Homer, Alaska, with the first bike to arrive receiving $500,000. Proceeds from whatever Parry may win will be donated to the theater.
Dan Gernatt Jr., owner of Gernatt Asphalt and the one who originally donated the theater to the village, also thanked volunteers for their longterm devotion.
"I can't compliment the people who work on this enough because they put a lot of their time and devotion into it; blood, sweat and tears," Gernatt said "They've done an awesome job in raising money and you'll be surprised when you walk through the theater this year. They've done a great job."
Matt Wittenbrook, pastor at Gowanda Free Methodist Church, opened the ceremonies with prayer and provided the bike blessing, asking for the protections of alertness, smooth roads and safe delivery.
Buffalo-based group Black Widow closed Friday night's activities.
Today's events at the Hollywood Happening include the Moose Rider's Charity Run, with registration at 11:30 a.m. outside the Gowanda Moose Club; Hot Daddy Rocks performing from noon-3 p.m. on the main stage; a tattoo contest from 3:30-5 p.m., the Maria Aurigema Band performing from 5-8 p.m. and Aerosmith tribute band Draw the Line closing from 9 p.m.-midnight.
Sunday's activities include the bike rodeo, ride-in bike show, Steve Johnson Band and Tell Mama, as well as the drawing for a 2010 Harley-Davidson Super Glide Custom.
Vendors, concessions and other attractions are scheduled for both remaining days. Visit the schedule at www.gowandahollywoodhappening.com for more details.