Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Thunder in the Sand

Written by  September 30, 2004

Between the small southeastern Iowa towns of Conesville and Columbus Junction lies a 22-acre patch of ground owned by the Circle of Pride Motorcycle Club. Every year during the Labor Day weekend, it is the location of an event known as Thunder in the Sand. The entrance to the site is marked by twin gargoyles on pedestals, and those who pass through that portal are free to leave inhibitions behind and party as only bikers can. Tickets are priced at $25 in advance and $30 at the gate, and only adults are admitted. People who are offended by nudity or rough language be well advised to find another place to spend the holiday weekend. The Circle of Pride motorcycle club constantly works to improve the facilities. This year the shower house was remodeled. The construction of a new stage is in the works for future events.

Every rally here features a full slate of entertainment. The gates opened on Friday, September 3. On the 1/8-mile drag strip, competitors completed practice runs in preparation for Saturday’s racing. Team X-Treem performed wild stunts on the strip. In the evening, cowboys put on a live bull riding show at the rodeo arena. There was also a topless steer riding competition. Bands that performed on Friday included Ragged Glory, Chain Lightning, Sky Pilot, and Hank Rotten & Allen Ross.

On Saturday there was a poker run and a bike show in addition to the outlaw drag races. At the rodeo arena, sled pullers put on a great show followed by ultimate fighting and fireworks. A comedienne known as the Bag Lady put on several shows. Saturday’s bands included Dago, Judge Parker, Mud Cats, and Hank Rotten & Allen Ross. At midnight, the “what tee shirt?” contest took place.

An artist specializing in body painting was on hand, and the artwork was proudly displayed by numerous ladies. One attraction that always draws huge crowds is Bob the Mechanical Bull. Unlike many mechanical bulls, this one is fully equipped with a head, horns, a tail, and testicles.

Thanks to the skill of Bob’s owner, Keith McAlpine of Anaconda, Montana, this bull seems to come to life. Bob pivots slowly, scanning the audience surrounding the bull ring. Then he selects an area and begins to move his head from side to side. He is looking for a lady or ladies, not to be bucked off but to put on a show. Occasionally a cowboy emerges from the crowd to show off his bull riding skill. Bob usually dispatches this interloper in short order and resumes his search for more entertaining riders.

The length of time riders spend on Bob’s back is directly proportional to the amount of clothing shed. “Cowgirls” who arrive in pairs or threesomes tend to get the longest rides. Keith has been in the mechanical bull business for about nine years. He is loyal to the Circle of Pride and refuses to take Bob to biker events anywhere else. Keith is working on another top-secret mechanical device that he hopes to unveil at the Hog Wild Rodeo next spring if all goes well.

Thunder in the Sand typically starts to wind down on Sunday. There are a few events, but the crowd size tends to diminish during the remainder of the weekend. Conesville is a great place to escape from reality for a few days and enjoy the holiday.

The Circle of Pride will host a Halloween Hoedown on October 16. The 12-1/2 Annual Hog Wild Rodeo will be May 13 and 14, 2005. Possum is very superstitious and refuses to refer to it as the 13th, especially since it begins on Friday the 13th.

This year’s rally was dedicated to the memory of Jeffrey Paetz, also known as Oz, a popular Circle of Pride member who passed away in July at the age of 36. Rest in peace, brother Oz.

Story and photos by Stripe