Article by Kevin Dunworth
Photos by Cycle Source Staff
Originally Published August 2019
The Cherokee Blue Ridge Run is fast becoming one of my favorite events. Mainly because it is located in the middle of some of the best mountain roads with tons of loops through the Great Smoky Mountains. I believe it is a real “riders” rally. The venue for the main festivities and music is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The grounds are incredible, and the local tribe is very welcoming to the bikers traveling through. I always forget that you are basically traveling to another nation, one of the more pleasant yet differences is the lack of a dominant police. The bikes and characters that crawl out of the backwoods and small towns are pretty damn cool. Sure, you have a large number of traveling baggers and such, but the surprising amount of what I would classify as old school biker home builds and daily riders is refreshing when walking the parking lot.
Like a lot of the first parties I attended, the motorcycle line up throughout the day changes as people ride in and out using the main stage as a meeting point. As the sun starts its decline, the rows start filling in thick. The bikes get lined up, filling in from the back towards the stage. This gave it a cool “party” vibe that I have not felt in a few years at some of the larger rallies. Of course, Jay “Worlds Fastest V-Twin Emcee” Allen helps with that vibe, that dude is the real deal. His mix of truly educating the crowd about current motorcycle industry issues, party, and jokes is well received. You feel like you’re part of something, not just attending. That’s a rare talent as an emcee. Sure you get to parade main street and then walk to a venue but at The Blue Ridge Run the Bikes and the people that ride them become part of the action. By the time the last bands come out, you don’t have to walk very far to find a new friend or have a great conversation.
I work the motorcycle with Bob Kay, and we like to run a tight ship with top current talent on the show circuit. This is not your typical ride in show, we showcase these bikes as an “artistic feature,” and they are available for viewing during the entire rally. The organizers of the Blue Ridge Run stepped up for Team USA, and this motorcycle show is an East Coast Qualifier for The AMD World Championships in Germany 2020. This brings out the best of the best in any region that our traveling circus brings us. The air-conditioned hall we set up the show bikes in also houses Grease & Gears Garage with the Cycle Source crew and emcee Pat Jansen who keeps things hopping. The amount of information and talent in that region comes out on that stage. Having the opportunity for many regional builders and artisans to showcase their skills live at the event and to the internet is a real game-changer for them. It proves that there are incredibly talented people still plugging away with the passion of motorcycles in their blood. We brought in Taylor Schultz to do a little instructional for kids throughout the day and pinstripe for hire during the night. His work is mind-blowing, and he always draws a crowd. Makoto Endo created art live during the event with his chopstick painting. If you don’t know who he is make sure you Google that dude. Not only is he doing all the work on canvas with chopsticks, but he only uses ink. My mind is always blown watching him mix down ink to the shades he wants and create a masterpiece over a few short days. One entire wall of the exhibit hall was filled with curated photos by Heidi Zumbrun, who is a traveling motorcycle nut, surfer, and amazing photographer are just a couple of her titles. She is a true powerhouse and good travel friend. Seeing her artwork is captivating enough, but watching her interact with all the people at the rally is amazing. Lots of people look at a photo and shrug it off, but the crowd around her soul capturing art all weekend spoke for itself. The ability to have all these features under one roof made it super cool place to hang out for a while.
For the first time, on Friday night the majority of rally-goers ventured to a dirt track just down the road. It was dirty, loud, and downright dangerous…aka awesome!!! Also, some of the best local flat track you could see. Keep in mind some pro’s come in town, and they are great to watch, but the local grassroots boys slinging dirt and fists is what it’s all about. Nobody got hurt bad and hooting and hollering for people you never met makes any motorcycle event fun. Funny thing about racing, you can pick a side and never have to know a damn thing about the side you’re on. This was super fun, and the spectators seemed to enjoy it greatly. Knowing we had some great bands back at the fairgrounds later that night with good friends was even better.
Once the mist started to burn off on Saturday morning, we witnessed the area come to life with rideable paint masterpieces. The Perewitz Paint Show set up shop, and rolling art trickled in. Jody and her legendary father pulled no punches when it came to putting t
ogether a must-see show. I noticed that many of the bikes had a slant to performance. I personally really dig this. You can see the fancy paint jobs and start to realize the field of entries has been accented with a growing majority of sticky tires that have been well scrubbed in. This always makes you smile
The final day of the Cherokee Blue Ridge Run brought the Cycle Source Ride-In Bike Show, dozens of cool custom and vintage motorbikes rolled in for a chance at bragging rights. In the end, Tim Dixxon took home best of show.
Between set-up, work, friends, and a couple bottles of whiskey with Bob, that’s about the gist of the event from my perspective. Tons of vendors and stuff going on during all the stuff I noticed like most places, however like I said, the location, the vibe, and the features makes this one of my favorites to attend. Cool thing is, I think we are trying to get the entire band back together to do it again this year. And I cannot wait.