21st Annual Event helps Kids Charities of the Antelope Valley
Story by RT/Photos by Art Hall
Ron and Yvette Emard are not ones to let… ahem… grass grow under their feet, when it comes to the Kids’ Charities and maximizing their options for a great summertime benefit event. Thus, 2015 Thunder on the Lot was billed as, Thunder is On the Move! — to Lancaster City Park!
Starting things off on Friday June 26 was the 2nd annual Thunder “Open-Header” Cruise-In to downtown Lancaster for a real “slow ride” to start off the 21st Annual Thunder on the Lot weekend, showing off hot rods & classic cars of every description along with motorcycles too, and headed up by Ron Emard in his own Rat Rod. All free for participants and spectators. Many of the cars & trucks at the Cruise-in would also be on display in the Classic & Custom Car Show at Thunder during the weekend.
Then Saturday & Sunday activities at the Park revved things up. Stunt Farm stunt riders performed and there was a burn-out contest. A Family Game Zone and a Kids Zone provided family & kidfriendly activities & entertainment. And a Charities Exhibit, where you could meet & greet and talk to & find out more about each of the organizations that Thunder supports. One example is Saddle Up — a therapeutic horseback riding program designed for physically and mentally challenged individuals. Just some stellar groups here.
This year, the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps performed for the crowd two times each on Saturday and Sunday. Classic Harley-Davidsons lined up side by side moving in synchrony, with what seems to be a gravity-defying pyramid of riders standing on each others’ shoulders and with one rider at the very top of this tri-level formation, in complete balance and control. Amazing.
The Headliner band on Saturday night was the classic rock group Foghat—which is also making waves on TV commercials now with their hit “Slow Ride”. They played all the hits for the crowd and afterwards graciously signed autographs. For just $10 admission Saturday, you got the whole show plus all Saturday activities. Opening band was Damage, Inc. which has played Thunder “a lot”; they are a Metallica tribute and very very good. Sunday the main band was Bostyx, a Boston/Styx tribute.
The purpose for all the fun as mentioned at the start, is the Kids Charities of the Antelope Valley. Founded by Ron & Yvette Emard in 2000 and managed by Yvette Emard, Kids Charities is committed to filling the needs of underserved children in the Antelope Valley. Kids Charities benefits more than 30 child oriented groups that provide various important services. When you get to meet the actual groups you are supporting, at this event, this makes it very personal and very fulfilling to know where your donation is going. Thunder on the Lot was started in 1995 by Ron Emard as his way of raising funds for child abuse prevention. It started out, on an actual “lot”—a car lot, at Robertson Palmdale Honda, but grew over 8 years, moved to a park in Palmdale, then a larger park, then Antelope Valley Fairgrounds was its home through 2014. Ron the dealer principal of Antelope Valley Harley-Davidson, and Yvette Emard, Thunder Co-Director, are assisted by General Manager Scott Kellerman and Scott’s wife Laurie who are very active & committed volunteers for Thunder including the Bike Show and Poker Run. Lots of teamwork! And now the City of Lancaster has partnered with Thunder to hold the event at Lancaster City Park.
Sunday started out with Poker Run Registration at Antelope Valley Harley-Davidson at 7:30 AM Sunday with a staff of volunteers helping Laurie Kellerman get it done. Riders headed out on a scenic ride with stops at Thunder-friendly area businesses such as Coach’s Sports Bar & Grille, Squirty’s Collision, Schooners Bar & Grille and, the crown jewel destination, on the curvy road to the big blue water of Bouquet Reservoir, a stop at Big Oaks Lodge & Restaurant. The route then turned back to Lancaster to the Park for the final stop and card pull. The hundreds of poker run bikes swelled the count to 2,000+ bikes total at Thunder.
Sunday everyone is admitted free, for a multi-stage music festival, vendors, and the Bike Show- a judged show with over 250 entries, winning 70 trophies in 17 classes. This year’s Best of Show award went to David & Alana Esparza for their intricately customized Harley bagger, with beautiful flowing lines and integrated body panels. The paint includes netherworldly images in red tones haunting the deep shadows of glossy black.
A $100 Prize Ticket got you in the drawings for many big prizes, and we mean BIG. I note that all the big prizes were won by Antelope Valley area residents, a credit to the local area riders truly supporting their own community. The top prize was a 2015 Harley-Davidson Street Glide, won by Kevin Von Tungeln of Lancaster. Next, a $25,000 in-ground swimming pool (donated by AquaPhina Pools), won by Lancaster’s Paul Dejaynes. Then, a new Honda car from Robertson Honda, painted by Squirty’s (yes, the same folks as the stop on the Poker Run)- was won by Steve Becker of Lancaster.
Another awesome prize was a combo- a 1 Hour Jet helicopter tour of the Mojave Desert and, a Flightdeck Air Combat Center/Top Gun fighter pilot simulator- for 4 people! The jet helicopter ride was donated by Ron’s friend, pilot Mark Norris- and trust me, this is over the top cool. Hint: Take your camera! Won by: Jesse Alvarado of Lancaster. Hundreds of other prizes were also raffled, giving everyone a chance to participate in the fun.
Kids’ Charities has raised over $5 Million to date, $4.2 Million of which comes directly from Thunder on the Lot. No wonder, this is a big deal. Proof positive again, that you can be a bad ass, ride a Harley, and do some good with all that chrome and leather. We see people there every year that we see only there, because that’s where our paths cross. It’s out in the middle of the high desert, Antelope Valley, a nearheaven experience riding or even driving, through at times stark landscape and jaw dropping mountainous terrain. A destination to dream of, as this is a place you can’t get out of your mind, and your heart. “Go there.”