Biker Billy’s Gettysburg Festival RecapArriving in the sunbaked afternoon of an early June Saturday, I began to unpack my gear on the tarmac behind the stage. On stage a band was finishing their set. The singer’s voice stirred a vague memory of Janis Joplin, not a sound alike but just a hint, like well-balanced spices arise in foods on one forkful then retreat to reveal another flavor on the next bite. I enjoyed the complexity of sounds as I moved through my familiar setup work. The show venue was a large square in the midst of Gettysburg College, green grass to spread blankets on and ample seats arranged for the audience. I was there for the evening Beer, Blues and Barbeque event and what was wrapping up while I did my prep was an arts festival, making a full day on the green.
Gettysburg is a place steeped in history, much of its ground long ago soaked in the blood of a conflict that helped form our nation and its effects still ripple towards us today. I have long been interested in history and I am no stranger to these fields of battle from my many motorcycle journeys to and tours of Gettysburg. Standing as I was dressed in my usual black on that hot black pavement I could not help but think of those brave American soldiers, patriots all on both sides who strove here 149 years ago. Much can be argued, debated and discussed as to the multi-faceted factors in the body politics of those distant times, yet there is a purely human aspect that can only be appreciated by being in Gettysburg. Early June there is hot, yet not as hot as early July, the season of the high water mark of the Confederacy. While asphalt was not present a century and a half ago to stand and bake upon, I could feel a sense of what the heat must have been like for those wool clad and pack laden men of arms.
If you have not yet visited this historic town, I encourage doing so, if not this summer then next year during the 150th anniversary of the famous battle. Read some older history books before your trip. Things written closer to the event will give a richer feel for the history. Go to the new visitors center, see the film and experience the restored cyclorama. It is an experience worth having. Then I encourage you to ride your bike through the battlefield park, stop at the various key places from this massive struggle of brother against brother. Soak in the heat of the sun and the humidity of eastern Pennsylvania farmland. The experience will move you. I believe you will gain a new perspective on your American heritage and the importance of being an involved voting citizen.
So much for history and the heat, what got really hot, as the sun slid on its westerly track was the event. The evening started with a gourmet barbeque dinner created by former White House Chef Walter S. Scheib. Understand that Chef Walter served both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, meaning his BBQ had to satisfy an Arkansas and Texas palate. I heard nothing but rave reviews and the vegetarian items I sampled were dynamite, great corn bread, a roasted sweet potato dish that was beyond words and awesome vegetarian baked beans. After the attendees had time to enjoy their meal and a few cool beverages, I took the stage and had a blast cooking with some folks from the audience. Fired them right up, but they stood strong and we had a real fun show.
After my show as the sunset lit the sky a wonderful blues singer Shemekia Copeland performed a great set. What a voice and stage presence with a band that was tight. It was a most enjoyable performance. Then we finished the evening with the drawing of a raffle bike and I had the honor of pulling the ticket. Battlefield Harley-Davidson donated a 2012 Harley-Davidson Dyna Street Bob FXDB – imagine getting such an awesome bike for buying a $10.00 charity raffle ticket. It was all in all a great event and one I will look forward to doing again at a future date.