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Good vibrations in downtown Medford

No need to travel to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota or Street Vibrations in Reno, Nev., to get an eyeful of gleaming chrome and custom paint or hear the deep-throated rumble of 100 V-twin engines.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, Mark Daley’s Thunderstruck hosts the 18th Annual Xtreme Bike Show and Street Party that will once again decorate Front Street with some of the most beautiful motorcycles you’ll see anywhere in the country.

Two blocks of Front Street will be closed off between Porters and Habanero’s to accommodate this year’s assortment of vendors, vintage cars and a display of Daley’s outrageous custom choppers. There will be booths with jewelry and purses for the ladies, along with a beer garden, outdoor barbecue and great music by local rock group A.K.A.

“We’ll be selling 50-50 tickets,” Daley says. “This year we have more raffle items than ever, some from Drag Specialties, Snap-on Tools and the Rogue Regency Hotel. Oregon Motorcycle Adventures will be here with their KTM bikes and the Vintage Motorcyclists. Some folks are bringing their street rods, and we’ll also have some exotic and muscle cars.”

Bike show registration begins at 11 a.m., and judging runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded at about 4 p.m. There are classes for different motorcycles, from wild, full-blown customs to street Harleys and metric cruisers. There's also a class for vintage bikes, a ladies division and even a class for the more unusual creations like the one Uncle Roy built in his garage.

“Thanks to our sponsors, we have a lot of trophies this year,” Daley says, “so people will have more of a chance to take one home. Everything from full-blown radical customs to metrics to stock street bikes turn out for this event. But it’s not just about show bikes,” he says. “We want people to enter who are proud of whatever they ride. The entry fee is only $10, and the money all goes to benefit Jackson County Boys and Girls Clubs.”

For the past 17 years, Daley has grown this event from a modest $800 take the first year to $26,000 in 2013. He and wife, Betsy, have raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for the local Boys and Girls clubs. “People have really stepped up to make it a success, especially our sponsors. I think it’s partly because it’s a local cause and the money helps kids right here in Jackson County.”

The Boys & Girls Club in Talent works with local disadvantaged youngsters. “We are so fortunate that we’ve been the sole recipient from Thunderstruck,” says Jeff Cox, athletic director of the organization. “Over the years, Mark has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to us. It’s a big part of our annual funding.”

Cox said they try to keep yearly membership fees at $40 per year for each child, but it costs well over $1,000 each for the services they provide.

“We have activities like arts and fitness, and we teach them character and leadership skills. We get the older kids ready for high school and college if they choose to go.”

With no government funding, they are totally dependent on the community, so the donations from Thunderstruck help to offset that difference.

Although organizing this event is a daunting task every year, Daley says he is deeply touched by the thank you letters he gets from kids at the Boys & Girls Clubs. "I don't do this by myself — it takes a lot of help from sponsors and volunteers to make it happen. I am always so grateful to everyone who pitches in. But if we can help make more productive lives for some of these kids, it's well worth the effort."

Daley's shop is filled with trophies from prestigious national and world-class bike-building competitions, such as Artistry in Iron in 2009 and 2012, and the AMD World Championship in 2010. But Daley hasn't let the recognition go to his head. He never forgets his modest start as a neighborhood motorcycle mechanic who worked on friends’ bikes for gas money.

For many years he has been involved with the annual Rogue Valley Christmas Toy Run, sponsored and supported local causes and recently donated his time and talent to rebuild a specialized bike for injured veteran Charlie Linville of Boise, Idaho, who lost his leg and some fingers when he stepped on a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Even if you’re not a bona fide “Live to Ride” motorcycle nut, there’s just something elemental that ripples through your gut when you see two city blocks lined with these beautiful machines. Countless hours, and dollars no one cares to count, have been spent on making each bike reflect its owner’s personality. So come to the party. It’s fun. It’s free. But in the end, as Daley says, it’s all about the kids.

'Dog Soldier,' a Thunderstruck custom pro-street bike, was built for Julio Helena, who wanted a motorcycle to represent his Native American heritage. Photo courtesy of Mark Daly