GROVER HILL — The cloudy skies and occasional raindrops did nothing to dampen the spirits of the thousands gathered at Wetzelland for the 28th incarnation of this celebration of motorcycles and hard rock. Over the years, thousands have flocked to the Wetzel Motorcycle Club’s 100-acre property with the sole intention of leaving their cares, and perhaps their clothes, at the gate.
“”You can go ahead and ask me what brings me to Wetzel every year, but you wouldn’t be able to print a lot of my answers in the paper,” Norm Combs, of Deshler, said.
“You get to let your wild side out,” Norm’s wife, Anna, said. “It doesn’t matter.”
The Combs were sharing a cart with Mac and Holly McCracken, of Michigan, friends they do not have the opportunity to spend time with outside of fesivals like Wetzelland.
“I love it because you can just come here and do whatever you want,” McCracken said. “It’s all about having a good time with a bunch of great people.”
The Wetzel Motorcycle Club started this festival as a way to give back to worthy causes in the community, and it is that goal that keeps this celebration going, according to club member and Wetzelland public relations director Danny McPhail.
“We have several causes that we give back to through this,” he said. “We support a lot of volunteer fire departments and other organizations here, and now that we’re a non-profit organization, we can give more of what we make here.”
Amidst the consistent roar of motorcycle engines in the background, coupled with the heavy bass of the hard rock bands on stage, including FireHouse and Warrant, many reunions were taking place on the festival grounds as rock fans and motorcycle junkies from across the country came together for this yearly pilgrimage, drawing an average of 5,000 to 8,000 every year.
“It’s great,” Indiana’s Stephanie Pierce said. “There are tents here with people from Pennsylvania, Texas, Iowa, everywhere.”
In that same tent, John Major, also from Indiana, was excited to reconnect with friends made at previous festivals.
“There’s a tent down the way with some people from Pennsylvania that we haven’t seen since last year’s Wetzel,” he said. “That’s what makes this weekend great. You can just come here and cut loose and meet new people.”
For McPhail and the rest of the Wetzel Motorcycle Club, they will be too busy making sure everyone else is having a good time as the festival wraps up today, acting both as hosts and security.
“Yeah, everyone’s wound up waiting for something to happen,” McPhail said. “But on Sunday, we’ll party hard out here so we can wind down. Then we’ll take a break for a couple of weeks and start up planning for next year.”
While organizers will soon be looking ahead to 2015, there was only one thing on the minds of the thousands on hand, C.J. Snare, lead vocalist of FireHouse discovered.
“Are you ready to rock?” he bellowed, followed by the crowd’s boistrous reply: “Hell, yeah!”