Written by Diana Olmstead
The last weekend of April, for 3 full days, the Tacoma Dome and Exhibition Center was the site of the 18th annual Mild to Wild Hot Rod and Harley Show.
190,000 square feet combined between the Dome, filled with some of the finest classic cars and hot rods on the west coast and the Exhibition Hall, showcasing custom bikes from several dealers, manufacturers, and independent builders to suit just about any flavor and style. Also on hand were 70 vendors featuring custom painting-airbrushing, clothing and collectibles, metal polishing and plating just to mention a few examples.
‘Scoots’ and ’Rods’weren’t the only pretty attractions the guys were paying attention to…the Lady Luck’s Cowgirl Up dancers and the Hooters girls definitely captured a fair share of the attention.
But for me it was all about the bikes. I met many great and talented people over the course of 3 days. Josie at Illusions Custom Airbrush had many of her paint design samples on hand, the guys from Ewing Kustoms out of Sumner displayed their custom bikes ranging from classic retro to radically sleek, Mark at American Motorcycles had a steady stream of folks interested in their line of Big Bear Choppers featuring the new BBC/S&S 100 Smooth engine and Baker 6 speed transmissions, all with custom paint by JE Illusions.
Destination Harley-Davidson and Northwest Harley-Davidson were both present, each with a handful of custom Harleys. Of particular interest was the Easy Rider Captain America replica from Destination. Scott and the crew from Easyriders Road House Cycles made the trek from Post Falls, Idaho. Their vendor space was most impressive as they had a great selection of Big Dog motorcycles and Road House apparel.
This years Mild to Wild Motorcycle Builders Award went to Art Bader with his green and silver 2002 Custom Softail ‘Tiki God’ by Tiki God Kustoms.
The highlight of my weekend was meeting Neil Burton of Prime Suspect Choppers out of Richmond B.C.. His bike, Mystic Warrior displayed in the lobby between the Dome and Exhibition Center was a breathtaking example of unique metalwork and custom fabrication blended with intricate paint and graphics. The Mystic Warrior was voted as Canada’s 2006 Peoples Choice Winner and the 2006 West Coast Custom Show Pro Builder Winner. For 3 days, I watched as people of all ages were mesmerized by this truly impressive piece of rolling art.
I should note that my editor gave me the assignment of covering this show instead of covering it himself as he had been to it 12 years in a row and wanted a new perspective. All in all it was a good weekend with room for improvement.
Like all long term events it needs to be ‘refreshed’. Many riders and vendors felt that the emphasis was on the classic cars and that era. The dome pumped mainly 50’s hot rod and surf music into the bike area for 3 days. The Exhibition Hall full of bad ass scoots lacked a vibe. It was in desperate need of music that reflected it’s heritage, classic rock. A little bit of Zeppelin, Steppenwolf, and Skynard would have been much appreciated by the leather and chrome crowd in the Exhibition Hall. Ticket cost was $15 per person, although 20,000 $3.00 discount tickets were distributed all over the area as well as in Quick Throttle magazine. Parking was another 6 bucks (bikes parked free Saturday & Sunday), and the Domes food and beverage vendors were, as always, extremely overpriced. Add the rising cost of gas to the equation and I was not surprised that attendance was not higher.
I think it’s time venues like the Dome, Qwest Exhibition Center and others stopped ripping off attendees with $4.00 pretzels, $5.00 Cokes and $8.00 hamburgers. This reflects badly on the show, it’s promoters and the industry in general. Meanwhile the show organizers and promoters get the blame and don’t see a dime of concession or parking revenue. For the Quick Throttle® Expo in California, we dropped the current venue over $8.00 beers and $7.00 hamburgers.
Promoters take note: There are many other places to play!