2017 David Mann Chopperfest

By Tom Christian; Photos by Tom C & Mike Cupp

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The David Mann Chopper Fest Motorcycle Art and Culture Show was moved from December 10, 2017 to February 4, 2018 because of the fires in the Ventura area last year, and the event venue (Ventura Fairgrounds) was used as an evacuation center. As I was riding out to cover this event I was thinking of all the unfortunate people that it affected and I prayed that the folks are getting their lives back in order. My ride out to Ventura was 156.7 miles of fresh air and it started by riding off the San Bernardino Mountains, across the desert, past Magic Mountain through Santa Paula and out to Ventura Fairgrounds.

The first thing that hit me was just how many bikes I saw throughout the parking lots. Every kind of imaginable machine put together with two or three wheels that could be ridden to the event. When I got inside I was overcome by what I saw as I walked through the sea of bikes on display. It took me a few minutes to take it in and get started taking photos of the bikes. Wow there was a helluva lot of imagination and incredible hard work on these bikes. I could not pick one or even ten of the bikes that impressed me the most with all the different categories to choose from.

Chopper Fest is according to its organizers “a tribute and celebration to the artist and friend, David Mann” who passed away in 2004, inspiring other artists through his art legacy and life’s work, and the motorcycle as an art form. Bomonster and ArtGirlCathy Mejia both had exhibits– two Mann-inspired artists whose works were recently featured on Quick Throttle Magazine covers.  Other exhibits included vintage art, signage and photography. Something for everyone!

One outstanding thing that I noticed is the incredible people that showed up for the David Mann event. I saw more young families with their bikes here than anywhere I have ever been. I took a few families’ photos with their bikes and I could see the happiness on all their faces. I always ask if the bikes have names or a story about the family with the bike. That is the fun part of covering this event. Watching the little ones dancing to the live music with their moms and dads are the cutest moments to watch. With the consent of the parents I took a few photos of them enjoying their day.

As I was walking around to see all the exhibits you can smell all the good food and watch the folks enjoy eating. I could never seem to get the time to just stop and grab a bite to eat with all the activities going on but I did stop in to visit a few vendors and chat with the folks who were working them. Barnett clutches and cables might be something that every motorcycle could use. Next to that was a T-shirt stand that caught my eye with the name, “No Couch Needed.” I liked the military shirts the best with a lot of other cool designs.

Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys was a major sponsor of this year’s event and had a large booth right outside the Exhibit Hall.  Stunt rider extraordinaire Randie Raige of Team RB Freestyle was there greeting visitors, and they were handing out the Quick Throttle/Russ Brown 2018 Calendars, along with other BAM merchandise and swag. As you walk inside the Exhibit Hall, the chopper on display right in front was beautiful and everyone was checking it out. Walking through the exhibits I had to stop and chat with the owners. Most of them worked out of their garage and it was part time work. Captn Dave was an EPA scientist and had some eye-popping items that he painted; as I walked away I just wondered at how much time he must have put into each item.

With time running out to see who was going to get the Best of Show trophy in the Bike Show, I walked back to the stage where there was a little dancing and beer-drinking going down. It was very noticeable how respectful everyone was at this festival.

I was taking a photo of a bike with a 7-foot trailer on the back when the owner came over to tell me about his rig. Tim Smith of Woodstock, Georgia rode his bike out here; he was a retired truck driver and having the time of his life. I also met Mike Dyer with his dad’s old 1969 JAWA flat track motorcycle that he rebuilt to put out on the track and hear it run in memory of his father who he lost in 2013. There were so many stories like this that made you happy to see them doing it. Walking through the bikes on display was crazy seeing  the imagination on display combined with determination to be different from the normal bike.

My grandson was checking out my photos on my computer and asked me which one I liked. I said, I liked them all and the folks who live their dreams!

The bands put a good beat in the air and people were singing along with them and tapping their toes to the beat of the drums when they played Bad Moon Rising by CCR. The three bands that played were Kelly’s Lot, Gethen Jenkins who I have seen before; he was great– and last was Awesome Blue, they rocked until 2pm right before the awards presentation.

While I was out and about I had a chance to meet up with Mike Cupp, the new Owner and Publisher of Quick Throttle Magazine. He was full of enthusiasm as we walked around all the bikes on display. Lots of folks came up to us to ask who we were working for and to take their photo. Everyone enjoyed talking to him and he enjoyed meeting all of them. I had Mike hold the Best of Show trophy so I could take a picture of it without dropping it!  (–and he told me that if I dropped it, he was running in the opposite direction — Publisher)

“If You Build It They Will Come” Bike Show

The judges got done putting ribbons on the bikes so it was getting close to show time. They announced the owners who should start bringing their bikes in front of the stage. There was a group of categories which made it fun for everyone. This was a fast moving presentation with all the bikes and limit on time but I did manage to get a few photos. Everyone wanted to hit the road back home.

Before the announcements of the winners in each category of bikes, a brand new award was presented for the first time in the fourteen-year history of the show. It is to show appreciation to a person who has exemplified keeping alive the spirit of the chopper lifestyle and culture. So this inaugural he “Mann Kind Award” was given to Mondo Porras, owner of Denver’s Choppers which is celebrating their 50th anniversary, and was the first company to manufacture the long down tube stretch frames. Mondo and his bikes were the subject matter for David Mann’s last painting and reproduced for the public to enjoy. Mondo has enjoyed David Mann’s works for a long time with some examples displayed in his shop. Mondo was very honored to receive this award especially being the first year it was presented.

Another award, the David Mann Memorial Award is presented to the motorcycle that best typifies a bike that David Mann would have painted. This year’s winner was the 1939 Flathead owned by Ryan Cox.

During the awards, Huggy Bear (Chopper Fest’s Founder & owner of The Shop) called his friend of over forty years Sugar Bear (of Sugar Bear Choppers) up front to announce a new museum opening this year in the Sturgis area during the 2018 Rally– the Sugar Bear Chopper Museum, four miles north of the Full Throttle Saloon (Pappy Hoel Campground) on Hwy. 79. So along with introducing Sugar Bear, Huggy Bear had a little fun re-telling the story of a phone call between the two: “Sugar, this is Huggy… Wait, that just doesn’t sound right between two grown men, hahaha!”  A great story and a good laugh!

See more info on this new museum at www.sugarbearchoppermuseum.org

The David Mann Best of Show award went to a Northern California 34-year-old self-employed garage bike builder from the town of Martinez. Ryan Grossman won with his 1947 Knucklehead named Alien Poison, customized in his garage and that took him about nine months to build. Ryan builds bikes from the 1930s to the 1970s, that is his niche that keeps him going. The last eighteen years he been wrenching on these bikes and the last ten years going to the David Mann festival and won second best last year.

If you really check out the photos of his bike, notice all the custom parts and engraving. The oil reservoir for his motor is built in his rear fender with that chrome cap; and his magneto is a Wico off a 1940 tractor. He made see-through plates covering the valves and the lower left side of his motor. So many customized parts he made or had built for his bike. The tailpipes also stand out and I wish I could have heard it start up and run, but everyone had to push their bikes out to the parking lots before starting.

2017 “If You Build It They Will Come” All Brand Antique and Custom Motorcycle Show Results

1st Dalton Walker 1950 Panhead
2nd Johnny Branch 1949 Panhead
3rd Carlos Amador 1958 FLH

1st Stacey McCleary 1949/69 Shovelhead
2nd Bob Carrilo 1967 Shovelhead
3rd Dave Shaw 1971 Shovelhead

1st Legends Motorcycles 1916 Henderson 4cyl
2nd Brian Ellison 1928 HD JD Police
3rd David 1937 Knucklehead

Daily Rider
1st Boog 1947 Knucklehead
2nd Victor Agaronov 1948 Panhead
3rd Sam Gallagher 1950 Panhead

Modern Chopper
1st Jeff Ettleson 2017 Chopper
2nd Mario Garcia 2013 Special Construction
3rd Ricky Bongos 2015 Sportster

Radical Design
1st Marco Barra 1980 Honda CB650
2nd Marko Djoric 2017 Djoric Design
3rd Ameiro 1980 FLT

1st AFT Customs 1970 Honda CL362
2nd Ryan Stivers 1975 Yamaha XS650
3rd Ronnie Price 1974 Honda BD750

Koolest paint
1st David Martin 2014 FLHXS
2nd Ryan Glossman 1946 Knucklhead
3rd Ameiro 1980 FLT

1st Mike Schuler 2014 FLHX
2nd Ivan Sacceba 2016 FLH
3rd George Delfino 2006 FLHR

1st Michael Tyrell 1970 Sportster
2nd Marko DelaCuesta 1969 XLCH
3rd Richard Jones 2000 Sporster

1st Frankie Klepadio 1969 Triumph TR6
2nd Tom Day 1976 Triumph T140
3rd Anthony Robinson 1969 Triumph T100

Racer (race bike)
1st Chris 2000 Fuel FXR Drag
2nd Robin Gean 1981 HD Drag Bike
3rd Brent Johnson 1940 Indian Scout

Special Construction
1st Stephanie Cota 2005 Rigid Custom
2nd Michael Ojala 2013 Salt Flat Custom
3rd Oliver Jones 1982 FXRCT

FXR (presented by KD Kustoms)
1st Adler Moto Design 1989 FXR
2nd John Jessup 1984 FXRP
3rd Rick Stratman 1989 FXLR

Ladies (presented by Real Deal)
1st Julie Wafford 2001 Sportster
2nd Stepahnie Cota 2005 Rigid Custom
3rd Lisa Cooksey 1993 FXRS-SP

Rat Bike
1st Paul Wheeler 1939 EL Knucklehead
2nd Bret Hatt 1943 EL Knucklehead
3rd Norm Newman 1934 Fairchild JAP Speedway

Best Knucklehead – Jeremy Aleck 1940 Knucklehead
Best Panhead – Super Chop Evan 1965 Panhead
Best Shovelhead – Johnny Branch 1969 Shovelhead
Best of Show – Ryan Grossman 1947 Knucklehead
David Mann Memorial Award – Ryan Cox 1939 Flathead
Ross “Kiwi” Tomas Award – Johnny Branch 1969 Shovelhead
805 Award – Majik Mike Designs Mike Rabideau 1981 Shovelhead
Street Chopper Award – Martin McLaughlin 1970 Sportster
Cycle Source/Chopperfest “Mann Kind Award” – Mondo Denvers Choppers

I personally had a blast at this event and hope to have made a friend or two. This event was two times larger than last year’s festival. It will be exciting to see who wins the Mann Kind Award next year and what’s new then from all the great artists he inspired as well.

Check out the David Mann Chopperfest photo gallery

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