SHAMOKIN — Saturday’s “Taking it to the Streets” ride turned out to be the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area’s most successful community event in its four-year existence in terms of participants and support for local businesses.
AOAA Director of Operations Dave Porzi said 465 vehicles, some of which had multiple occupants, came downtown. There were 835 riders in all at the AOAA Saturday.
“It was a great event that we were happy to sponsor,” he said. “I want to thank the riders, volunteers, AOAA staff, Shamokin City Council, city police and most importantly, the businesses for making this event a huge success.”
All-terrain and off-highway vehicle riders traveled from the AOAA Welcome Center on the Burnside Mountain off Route 125 onto South Grant Street near the Raspberry Hill Housing Project before making their way to Turkey Hill Minit Mart on Lincoln Street to “gas up” and head further into the downtown to shop and eat.
A lot of the riders utilized the municipal parking lot on East Independence Street to park their vehicles while others found stalls in front of restaurants and other businesses.
AOAA Authority board member Barry Yorwarth, among several AOAA officials walking and riding the route and providing assistance at an information tent in the park plot at Market and Arch streets, was pleased.
“This is just the first of many great things to come,” he said.
Yorwarth said the AOAA’s 12-acre parking lot was filled at 11 a.m. when the ride officially started.
“It’s just phenomenal to see so many people in town,” he said. “The AOAA was designed to be an economic development engine for lower Northumberland County by bringing money into the area. Today is a good example of that.”
Northumberland County Planning Department Grants Manager Kathy Jeremiah, who has been instrumental in securing funding for the AOAA, added, “I’m thrilled with this event. Economic development is a primary goal of the AOAA and I’ve been waiting for a day like this for 10 years.”
She added, “Most of the riders I’ve talked to so far told me they came here to spend money and that’s what the event is all about.”
Jeremiah and Yorwarth expressed appreciation to everyone who helped make the event successful and particularly praised the efforts of Yamaha officials for their support.
“It good to partner with a national manufacturer like Yamaha,” Yorwarth said. “When was the last time a national manufacturer came to Shamokin? We have a great partnership.”
AOAA Authority Board Member Dave Crowl said, “Today is a culmination of people cooperating and bringing economic opportunities to Shamokin and Coal Township. This is a long-term project and we will see where things go.”
Assisting the AOAA officials at the information tent were Lorena Kutza-Porzi and Heather Makal.
“This is pretty cool,” said Luis Burgos, 41, of Lancaster, who has rode the AOAA trails a couple times. The native of Puerto Rico added, “This event is good for the downtown businesses and I wish they would make it an annual event.”
Wayne Dutterer Jr., 47, and his longtime girlfriend, Sue Schrum, 46, of East Berlin, between Gettysburg and York, found their first-time visit to Shamokin enjoyable.
“This is a neat deal,” Dutterer said. “It’s a win-win situation for riders and local businesses.”
Schrum added, “Shop local. That’s what it’s all about today. We’re doing what we love — riding trails and patronizing local businesses.”
Dutterer and Schrum said the closest ATV park that offers a similar event involving riders coming into local towns is the Hatfield-McCoy Trails in West Virginia.
ATV riders Mark and Jen Grey, and Chad Trout and his wife, Jessica Hershey, all of Dover, said they were impressed by the event while enjoying lunch at Original Italian Pizza (OIP).
“It’s my first time here, Mark Grey said. “I’m impressed with the layout of the trail and how well organized this event is. It’s great to support local businesses. I look forward to coming back here.”
Hershey described Shamokin as a “nice town,” and said she and her husband plan to return to the AOAA on a regular basis.
Trout said he and his wife have taken weeklong vacations to ride trails in New Hampshire, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia. He ranked the local AOAA among one of the better trails.
Jen Grey added, “We plan on staying until the event is over. We’re having a good time so far. I enjoy riding and hanging out with friends.”
Good for business
OIP Manager Chrissy Geiswite said the event was great.
“It brings more people into town to support local businesses,” she said.
Billy Bacas, longtime owner of the iconic Coney Island, said Saturday was “fantastic.”
“I wish they would have it every weekend the AOAA park is open,” he said. “I believe the AOAA should have free reign of the town.”
Brittany Chesney, manager at the Heritage Restaurant at Market and Arch streets, which opened Oct. 10, said business was good.
“I believe it’s important to have events like this to create more life in town,” she said. “It’s good for the whole community.”
Her husband, Billy, chef and co-owner, said Saturday was the busiest lunch day since his restaurant opened.
“We’re very grateful for the business, and an event like this helps rejuvenate the city,” he said.
Forrest Curran, owner of the Ale House on East Independence Street, who was instrumental in developing “Taking it to the Streets,” said Saturday was the busiest day at his business since it opened two years ago.
“We had more business here in the first four hours than we usually have during the whole day on a Saturday,” he said. “I am a very strong supporter of the AOAA and I believe they should have events like this more often, maybe even every weekend.”
Curran said riders who patronized his business were polite and respectful.
He added, “I think the AOAA will save this town.”
Dennis Kaleta, owner of the recently opened Lost Mine-d Brewery Co. at Market and Spruce streets, expected to attract a better crowd from the AOAA event.
“I think part of it was because the riders didn’t have direct access to our business like some of the others,” Kaleta said. “Being further up on Market Street, we weren’t on the direct route. We actually lost revenue because we overstaffed for the event.”
Mayor John Brown, who helped develop the “Taking it to the Streets” idea with AOAA officials and merchants, said no major problems involving noise or rowdy behavior were reported.
“The riders I came into contact with were very respectful and even thanked me for doing the event,” Brown said. “Our goal was to get riders to spend money in the city and hopefully, we accomplished that. We plan on meeting with business owners and AOAA officials in the near future to gauge the success of the event to determine if we will do it again.”
Brown commended volunteers (among them he and his wife, Denise), AOAA officials and police who patrolled and provided traffic control.
Chief of Police Darwin Tobias III, who used an off-highway vehicle to patrol, reported just a few problems. Two additional officers were assigned to work the event.
Designated streets along the route were posted with signs and volunteers were stationed at multiple intersections to assist riders. Participants had to display proper identification issued by the AOAA and abide by a 5 mph speed limit.