GOWANDA - The annual Hollywood Happenings in Gowanda kicked off the weekend of festivities with a very wet motorcycle ride.
Gowanda Harley Davidson Owner John Reid said fewer bikers were there this year because of the rain. "Turnout is quite a bit lower than other years, obviously because of the weather, but I'm surprised so many people are here regardless of the weather. We have the real enthusiastic riders here tonight," he said.
The event was formerly called the Harley Happenings, but has been changed to support fund-raising efforts for the Hollywood Theater in Gowanda.
OBSERVER Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Turnout was lighter than other years due to the rain, according to Jim Reid, co-owner of Gowanda harley Davidson.
"Randy Rosen and Gowanda Harley had started all of this, but basically, after almost nine years of doing it on their own, they needed some help and we were able to facilitate a lot more volunteers to make things work," Sal Dicembre, vice-president of the Gowanda's Historic Hollywood Theater board, said.
"This is our largest fund-raiser. We have thousands of people come to the event every year, and this is our 14th year. ... If we have a good turnout, good weather, we'll net anywhere from $40-50,000 this weekend," Dicembre continued.
"One hundred percent of that money goes back into the theater," in addition to the grants and other matching funds the group has been able to secure Dicembre explained.
"The theater was built in 1927. It fell into disrepair in the '90s. It was shut down in the mid-90s," according to Dicembre, who said it was then purchased by Dan Gernatt Jr.
"At that time it was closed. What he wanted to do was turn it over to a group that would be able to restore the theater. A 501 3(c) non-profit was established, Gowanda's Historic Hollywood Theater was established. ... We have raised roughly $511,000 through the Hollywood Happenings and private donations," Dicembre said.
"We are just shy of having put $2 million into the building. We expect to spend close to $2.6 million once we expend the grants we have. We are well over the half-way mark as far as the restoration," Dicembre continued.
We would love to get (the theater) fired up in 2013 or some time in 2014 so we can get at least some cinema showing in there," Dicembre explained. The theater has undergone extensive required repairs and upgrades, including wheelchair accessibility features, wiring replacements and removal of the boiler.
"It was one of those old coal-fired steam boilers with a pile of coal you had to shovel into it," Dicembre said. He further explained most of the remaining renovations would be more cosmetic. "People will really see it start to shine," Dicembre noted.
Dicembre said that in addition to the rider fees from the bike parade riders, the beer garden, other events, corporate sponsors and raffle ticket sales for a custom Harley Davidson motorcycle are the key sources of revenue during the event.
Today's line-up of events begins at 10 a.m. with registration for the AMVET's charity ride which leaves the American Legion at 11:30 a.m. The beer garden opens at noon today and Sunday.
The Hollywood Theater is open for visitors, and a magician will be performing at the theater at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. both today and Sunday.
At 12:30, 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., a motorcycle stunt show takes place on South Water Street on both days as well. Rock and country musicians will perform on the stages. Today's events include a tattoo contest, and Sunday's festivities will conclude with the drawing of the Harley Davidson raffle.
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