Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

The Best Damn Halloween Party in Oklahoma

Written by  November 30, 2004

Ever since my first trip to Sparks America in June, 2004, I had been looking forward to revisiting this 160-acre campground near Sparks, Oklahoma; between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The dates were October 22-24 and the event was “The Best Damn Halloween Party in Oklahoma.” With about 3,700 attending, it was smaller than the June bike run, but there were just as many games and events scheduled, and it was just as much fun. Due to my late afternoon departure from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, many of the Friday festivities had been concluded by the time I arrived. Tony Ward, coordinator of the Sparks America events, informed me that there were few who braved the rain to ride in the poker run. However, there was great participation in the Friday games, and everyone had a blast. Friday afternoon’s schedule included the newlywed game, doubles slow race, men’s and women’s barrel races, men’s and women’s keg roll, men’s and women’s keg toss, sexiest bra, topless hula hoop, two for flinchin’, and a 50/50 drawing, with proceeds split between the winning ticket holder and the Maria Ward Foundation charity. Evening entertainment was provided by The Street Kings and some lovely ladies who took the stage to strut their stuff for an appreciative audience.

Throughout the weekend, the weather continually improved. With Saturday’s temperature increase, airbrush artist, Donnie Tate, was kept busy doing body painting. Much of his artwork was influenced by the Halloween theme. The bike show started at 10 a.m., and numerous great rides, from rats to antiques to custom choppers were proudly displayed. On stage, men’s and women’s tattoos were judged in single color and multi-color categories. Once again, games and field events were contested practically non-stop throughout the afternoon, and included the men’s and women’s panty race, men’s and women’s slow ride, weenie bite, cherry bite, keyhole race, and men’s and women’s tire drags.

I contend that Tony makes up the rules for the panty race as he goes along. It may be part of a conspiracy to keep the ladies separated from their clothes for the longest time possible. Contestants began fully-clothed in the center of the field. They were then required to remove all but their panties; run a lap around four pylons; stop and remove the panties; run another lap; put the panties back on; return to the center, and finish dressing. Anyway, it was something like that. The ladies who competed for the prize money in this event got a bonus as they collected dollar bills thrown by appreciative spectators. In the interest of equal opportunity, the men were afforded an opportunity to compete according to exactly the same rules, right down to the panties. I didn’t ask where the panties came from, and I really don’t want to know. For some reason, compensation for these competitors was limited to the prize money collected by the winner who wasn’t the fastest but did a better job of remembering the rules.

Most of our readers have probably seen a weenie bite competition, but I would be willing to bet that few have witnessed a cherry bite. A cherry is suspended on a string and the solo rider attempts to bite the cherry while riding underneath. Considering the degree of difficulty, a surprising number of competitors were able to accomplish this feat without falling off their scooters. Many others missed the cherry, and a few fell. Fortunately the ground was soft, and the speed was slow. All of the games are great entertainment for the crowd, but those who enter have the most fun.

Saturday’s stage events included contests for best body paint and best men’s and women’s Halloween costumes. There were lots of terrific costumes on stage and throughout the audience. Special awards were presented for longest hair, longest beard, oldest biker, hard luck story, farthest ride to Sparks, and longest trip to Sparks. Iron Horse and War Horse kept the music going throughout the evening and well into the night, and the ladies returned to the stage to flaunt their attributes.

In addition to providing free water and coffee throughout the weekend, the Christian Motorcyclists Association hosted a Sunday morning service. Unfortunately, I needed to hit the road before the day’s games began. The schedule included men’s and women’s dizzy races, tater hunt, oil wrestling, and other bike games. More music was also on tap.

One particularly interesting character who always attends the Sparks events is “The Picture Man” whom I met at a bike rodeo in Waynoka, Oklahoma a few years ago. Since them I have seen him at several rallies. I have observed that he has an uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time to get great photos that he features on his web site, www.ridingfree.com. He and Tony are probably the two people who get the least sleep during the Sparks America events. He’s a popular figure at many bike rallies, and bikers eagerly anticipate his photos being posted. The Picture Man graciously consented to being interviewed for this article.

CC: How long have you been known as “The Picture Man?”
PM: I got tagged with that name after I got out of the Marine Corps in 1990. For a long time I just rode solo and took pictures because I was interested in photography. One time in 1994 somebody said “Check out that camera. Check out the picture man over there,” and it just stuck. Her name was Linda, and it was at Turner Falls.

CC: Are you a professional photographer?
PM: Yes, I am. I have a degree in photojournalism.

CC: Do you shoot wedding photos?
PM: No, I do not do weddings.

CC: I guess that would put some restrictions on your schedule.
PM: I do portraits, families, seniors, boudoir, lingerie and lace stuff. I have a studio in Edmond.

CC: How many bike events do you attend in a season?
PM: Normally about 25. I travel from Mississippi to Wisconsin, from Ohio to Arizona. I’m open to go to other places depending on scheduling. I’m not afraid to ride anywhere.

CC: What do you ride?
PM: Right now I’m riding a 2002 Softtail. It’s not fancy. It’s something my Ole Lady bought for me. It’s the fourth bike she bought for me. For those who don’t know “Ole Lady” is a title, and she has had it 32 years.

CC: Does she go to any of the events with you?
PM: She goes to one event a year with me, and that’s a personal issue between her and me.

CC: How long has your web site been online?
PM: I started it four years ago. Before that I shot for other people.

CC: Are you the webmaster as well as the photographer?
PM: It’s pretty much a one-person operation. I’m the editor.

CC: For our readers who are photo buffs, what kind of equipment do you use?
PM: I shoot with a Nikon D-100 with an external XB-80 flash set up on a stroboframe flip flash bracket and a whole bunch of batteries. One 1Gig card, three 512meg cards, and I have an HP laptop that I can take with me so I can download if I need to.

CC: How many photos will you typically shoot at an event?
PM: It depends on how many people are there and what’s going on. Sometimes it’s three to four hundred. Sometimes it’s a thousand or more. I shoot more now that I went digital than I did with 35 mm. Nowadays it doesn’t cost me 75 cents every time a push the shutter.

CC: It’s nice to know what you’ve got, so you can re-shoot if you need to.
PM: Actually, I rarely look at what I shot. I’m a professional photographer, and I know what I’m doing. I don’t need to look, because I already know what I have. I did this for years with a 35 mm and never got to see what I had until I got home. I did it that way for years. This way just makes it quicker. The only reason I would look is to make sure somebody’s eyes weren’t closed.

CC: That’s kind of hard to tell through the viewfinder.
PM: You’d be surprised what I can catch. I look over the top of the camera with one eye. I learned that technique shooting portraits. Unless it’s totally dark I can usually tell if your eyes were closed. The hardest part of this job is shooting in total darkness. Then I have to focus manually. I have been doing this long enough I have a good feel for how the focus needs to be set, especially with my old 35. It takes me a little longer with the digital. There are a few old tricks I learned in the military.

CC: Was it difficult for you to give up the film and switch to digital? Was it hard to let go?
PM: It took me about 15 minutes (laughing). I waited until the technology caught up with what I wanted. I told a friend in 1990 that I would buy a digital camera when they went to 6 megapixels. When that happened I went and bought one. I knew what I wanted for quality years ago. That’s another thing I learned in the military.

CC: What’s important in getting good biker photos?
PM: Integrity and respect is what this lifestyle is based on. If you don’t understand that you’re making a mistake being out here. Let me put it this way, respect given is respect earned. If you don’t show respect, you are going to lose respect. Then you will be in big trouble! There is good and there is bad in this lifestyle. There’s no question about that. There is good and bad in any lifestyle.

CC: Thanks for taking the time to visit with us.

Just as the interview ended, a photo op came up, and The Picture Man was gone in a flash.

I’ll be eagerly looking forward to the events at Sparks America in 2005. Tony informed me that he has already booked Black Oak Arkansas for the June bike run and is working to secure other headliners. The dates are June 16-27 and October 21-23. See you there!

Story and photos by Stripe