Las Vegas BikeFest

Artistry In Iron 2013

Article By: Chris Callen

Photos By: Bart Mitchell, Kerri Schindler & Darren McKeag

Originally Published In The February 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source

How do I start to summarize a trip like this year’s Las Vegas BikeFest? Well, I guess from the beginning. We are so lucky that the folks from LVBF have made us part of their family, and returning this year we had brought as much to the plate as possible. What started for us so many years ago as a simple party during their event has turned into a lifelong friendship between us, their staff and all the people at Hogs & Heifers. They have all done their level best to make Las Vegas our home on the west side.

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It all started with the Smoke & Mirrors art tour we had been on this year. With Mindi Cherry’s blessing we were bringing it to LVBF, and this time it would include George the Painter from The Horse. It meant that we’d have to haul a pile of art, a couple choppers and half the damn staff with us in the White Dragon, but we were salty road dogs at this point having done shows in WV, NYC, and Sturgis earlier this year. So, we loaded up. The trip was pretty much uneventful and other than a spot in Utah where I decided to take a swim in some standing water down in a canyon, we all did everything together. That morning, no one was on my side and I swam alone, but I digress. Our Vegas connection, Penny Osiecki, had things all set up for us by the time we got there; this girl really makes us all look like superheroes. It was gonna be a crazy couple of days and as soon as our feet hit the ground we were setting up. The gallery at the Cashman Center was called the Sin City Gallery and sparked what I think will end up being an annual art culture part of their show — pretty cool. Anyway, it featured art from Richie SEEN, Darren McKeag, Kayla Koen, George the Painter, Seth Leibowitz and yours truly. We all painted live throughout the weekend and it was the first time any of us got to work with GTP like this; a true talent and amazing teacher.

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All around us were incredible bikes being brought in for Artistry in Iron, and the vendors were everywhere. Man, the place was packed and the layout this year made it smooth as glass. It seems as if the changes over the past few years with LVBF have been accepted nicely and the crowds showed it. This year they added some really incredible national music acts to the already expected Strongest Biker and Miss LVBF. The Ultimate Bagger show was also held at the Cashman, along with the LVBF bike show and Editor’s Choice that was open to the public. This was the first time in Vegas that the Editor’s Choice show was not just for the Artistry in Iron builders so it was a great way for the magazine editors to reach out to both sides of the aisle: the pros and regular Joes.

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The rest of the weekend was a blur with days at the Cashman and nights at Hogs, with little bits of time in the middle where we’d escape for trips up and down the strip or onto Freemont Street. For anyone that hasn’t been to old Vegas and Freemont, let me just say it’s a nonstop freak show that rarely sleeps. God I love this town! You can read about our ride through Red Rock Canyon in this issue as well, but I just want to say an extra thank you here to Doug for helping us put this together. The route and the destination were perfect and I had a blast on The Ticket.

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You can also read about the Cycle Source pick from the public bike show – Bones’ Legacy – as well as our pick from the Artistry in Iron show, Michael Barragan from Evil Spirit. Both bikes are exceptional and we are honored to feature them in the Vegas issue. So the painting continued, and at one point we all noticed that Kayla would come and go … more go than anything, but somehow she was still getting more of her painting done than any of us. God we must be such losers in her eyes! Ha ha, just kidding! Thanks to everyone who stopped by and gave us great words on our art though, it really meant a lot.

This year they changed things up a little and announced the winner of Artistry in Iron Saturday evening instead of the beginning of the show. This was great because it kept the anticipation building. There was such a diverse group of bikes this year; it was really hard to choose just one. The national magazine editors all came up to the stage and gave their Editor’s Choice awards and an explanation of the bikes they picked. This event marked 3 complete shows for the national magazine editors this year with shows in Daytona, Sturgis and now Vegas. It’s a pretty good foundation and we would like to thank them all for their participation.

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So with all the winners announced, the 10,000 dollar first prize given out, it was time for us to end this event the way we always do, at Hogs & Heifers for the “Best Bike on the Strip” show. You can read more in this issue, but suffice it to say it was a huge hit since this year we came in with ten categories and the winner will be featured on an upcoming cover. What kinda sucked, to put it bluntly, is that during the year since we’d last been here, a giant hotel corporation had moved in all around Hogs and has been using their political weight to try and bust the owner’s balls. We are going to run a full interview with Michelle Dell, the owner, in our next issue but for now, if you can reach out and do anything for this spot that has become a cultural icon for not just the motorcycle industry, but unwanted children of the wilder side everywhere, then please do it. She’s a great lady and has the best staff in the world.

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The night ended with Seth and I painting on the street in front of Hogs and we got so into what we were doing we never noticed that it was around 2 a.m. We were completely alone outside, it was cold as balls and time to go home. The next day came way too early and man there is nothing more hilarious than hung-over artists trying to pack up and split. Of course it took all day, and the early departure time that I had set so we could be back in time for deadline was violated like a cheap hooker. We didn’t leave until late that night, but still managed to stop by Penny’s house where they had a killer spread put out. We all got a chance to say our goodbyes in a respectful manner; it’s always hard to leave. We drove all night and into the middle of the next day when we came across a chance to see Moab in Utah. None of us had been, and since it was already a shit show as far as the timeline went, we headed off the grid for a minute. It turned out to be one of the most important parts of the trip. SEEN had given Seth and I an assignment before we left Vegas. We pulled our easels out on the side of the road — after taking a dip in the frigid ass river — set a clock for fifteen minutes and started to paint. Now the deal was that you get what you get in fifteen minutes so the goal was to work fast and make good choices. While I can’t say that the paintings were the best work either of us had done, the pictures of my and my brother’s paintings on top of some rocks in a canyon in Moab were priceless. We laughed like kids during and most of the way home. It was just the shot of energy we needed and the perfect way to end Las Vegas BikeFest 2013. See ya next year! Special thanks to The Golden Nugget who was our host hotel and where we stay in Vegas every year!

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