Once again, I’m planning my annual pilgrimage to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This is my 15th year of attending, and I’ve also been part of the THUNDER PRESS family for over 15 years. But much more important is another milestone—the 25th anniversary of THUNDER PRESS. And we’re celebrating that remarkable achievement this year during the rally. Our Bikes, Burgers, and Beer party will be held on Thursday, August 10, from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum on the northeast corner of Main and Junction, and you’re all invited.
Although I wasn’t involved with THUNDER PRESS in the early days, I know that many of you were. When Reg Kittrelle and Lora Sutherland, Reg’s wife, started THUNDER PRESS in 1992, Reg chose his columnists, contributors, and supporters well. And you, our readers, are just as crucial to our success, whether you’re a longtime enthusiast or just picked up your first copy at your favorite dealership.
When I started as a THUNDER PRESS contributor in 2002, I knew nothing of the magazine’s history. All I knew was that my motorcycle club asked me to get a story of our first motorcycle run to benefit the team we sponsored, the Ironbound Little League, printed in the newspaper. Why me? I wasn’t yet writing or photographing for any magazines, but since I was secretary of the club, it was apparent I could string sentences together so I became the club’s de facto media person. My club, the Iron Knights MC, had only been in existence for about 2 ½ years and none of us knew anything about print media. I called the community desk at the Star-Ledger, the leading newspaper in that area, and asked if they’d send a reporter and a photographer to do a story on our run. They basically laughed at me.
Figuring that mainstream media had no interest in covering a motorcycle event, I began contacting some of the local motorcycle rags as well as a few of the national magazines. I had no success with any of the editors or publishers I spoke to, some saying they didn’t have “reporters” to send, others informing me that event coverage didn’t fall within their genre, and a few telling me in no uncertain terms that they just weren’t interested. That is, until I spoke with an editor at THUNDER PRESS who said, with some enthusiasm, “We don’t have anyone in that area, but if you write a story and take some photographs, we’ll consider printing it.”
That offer sounded pretty good to me, so off I went to the run, with notebook, pen, and film camera in hand. I tried to follow the look and style of other THUNDER PRESS stories I’d read, and with my fingers crossed—I sure didn’t want to let down my club—I sent it in. For quite a while, I don’t remember hearing anything other than a “thank you,” but when the June 2002 issue arrived in my mailbox—even back then I subscribed, not wanting to miss a single issue—I glanced at the magazine and drew a deep breath. There, on the bottom half of the cover, was my first story in print. I was jazzed. It was “below the fold,” but still, all I’d been hoping for was that it would be printed at all!
That same editor called me a few days later and effused, “That article was great! When are you doing another one?” With that encouragement, I started riding down the road of becoming a moto journalist. And every time I saw one of my stories in print, it just fed my desire to become better at bringing moto news to our readers. THUNDER PRESS was no longer just a paper I picked up at the local dealership. I had become one of the family.
My musings here didn’t start out to be about me, but I know that a lot of our THUNDER PRESS contributors still get the same gratification when seeing your name in print. Whether it’s to inform, entertain, or bring to light a deserving cause, what we do is important to many more than we realize. Office moves, company acquisitions, supplier and staffing adjustments—you name it, and we’ve gone through it, just like any other business. You’ve stuck with us through thick and thin, seeing us through all the changes we’ve experienced over the past quarter century. And our loyal readers have been right there along with us, offering praise, criticism, and challenging us to be the best at covering the American motorcycle culture and lifestyle.
If you’re a THUNDER PRESS contributor, columnist, contributing editor, or cartoonist, and you’re planning to be in Sturgis, please let me know. We’d love to see you at our celebration. In fact, we hope to see many of our readers, advertisers, friends, and supporters there as well. Please find us to say hello, or to introduce yourselves if we’ve never met. We’ll have giveaways and prizes and refreshments and all sorts of cool stuff, and we promise you a good time.
Going forward, we will continue as the voices of the biker community, bringing you news that’s important to motorcyclists. Over the years, we’ve seen magazines come and go. But THUNDER PRESS is still rollin’ strong. And we have all of you to thank.