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Central Florida Wheels Of Steel Doubles The Fun In Second Year

Central Florida Wheels Of Steel Doubles The Fun In Second Year

by James Coulter

Eight and a half years ago, Justin Kelly was inspired to take up custom motorbike design. Eight years later, this Texas resident traveled to Florida only one hour where he initially decided to blaze his trail, and he celebrated by building his custom bike—in only 28 days!

Justin has been building bikes for eight years. He started his hobby shortly after leaving the military. He was hurt overseas in Iraq, and he used his GI bill to purchase a fully-certified Harley Davidson.

Four years ago, he opened his bike shop, Hang’em High Customs in Mansfield, Texas. He mostly offered fabrication for custom bikes and other services to his customers. However, he was growing tired of simply creating designs for others. For once, he wanted to indulge himself and create something for himself.

“[I was inspired] to build my bike rather than just do customers’ bikes and everyone else’s vision to build something that is my vision, that is in my head and heart for my design,” Justin said.

Upon being invited to Central Florida Wheels of Steel, he decided to build his bike. He had limited time, but he managed to push through and build his custom bike in only 28 days.

“Took me time to determine whether I could make the show, and it took time to find out what kind of bike to build; The bike that is here now, [and] once I got the hands on the frame, and something on the lift, I did it start to finish in 28 days,” he said.

The result was a sparkling vintage 2003 100-anniversary Sportser with 1200 motor and power plant built like a 1936 knucklehead: magneto driven, kick only, park tail, internal throttle, no battery, runs on a capacitor.

“This bike is my first full-frame up from nothing bike build ever that I have done in all this time,” Justin said. “From start to finish, it took me 28 days to build.”

Justin was one of many custom motorcycle builders, riders, and enthusiasts who traveled across the country to attend the second annual Central Florida Wheels Of Steel in Lakeland last weekend.

Dozens of custom bikes created by builders across the state and country were showcased inside the RP Funding Center. Also showcased were booths and vendors from various motorcycle shops and businesses related to custom bike and bike accessories.

Since first starting last year, the event has more than doubled in size and scope. The one-day event was doubled into a two-day event. More than double the vendors and builders attended this year. And double the fun was provided to younger attendees with the kid’s zone.

The event serves as a fundraiser for Early Learning Coalition of Polk County, a local non-profit organization that offers tutoring and other educational services to local students. Dr. Marc Hutekappreciates how the event offers both fun and funds for a good cause such as his own.

“We can then bring those proceeds into the community and offer programs throughout the year,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for us to ensure that these children in our community are ready for school, and really, it is about supporting the families in our community.”

Jason Hellman, event co-chair, helped inspire the creation of the event. Not only does it serve a good cause, but it also helps to keep the motorcycle event industry afloat by offering a viable venue. As someone who has been in the motorcycle industry for the past 18 years, Justin has seen an exodus of event promoters, so he decided to start the event as a way to fill a void.

Since its inception last year, this local and regional event has grown its reach nationwide. Now custom builders and vendors arrive from as far as Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas.

“I would say the attendants and venue are the best around, and the attendance numbers have increased since last year,” Justin said.

Lt. Tony Allaire, event chair, also helped to create the event. As an officer with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, he knew that the honorable Sheriff Grady Judd was a big supporter of the community and the children within it. So having the PCSO involved in the event was a no-brainer, he said.

The one-day event was expanded into a two-day event to make it more worth the time and effort of vendors and attendees, Tony said.

This year’s event not only featured a huge display of bikes from law enforcement, but also started with an honorary motorcycle run for an officer who had died en-route to a call for a traffic incident.

“Some of the feedback [we received] was that people were taking time away from their shops and livelihood, so they wanted it to be more worth their while to be a two-day event,” Tony said. “So this year we took their advice and made it a two-day event.”

Overall, with double the vendors and builders, double the outreach, and double the event days, this year’s event more than exceeded expectations, and they hope to continue exceeding expectations shortly, Tony said.

“It has met our expectations from the perspective of creating a foundation and moving forward. It has blown those expectations out of the water. We are pleased with how it has gone,” he said. “I think going forward from here in no uncertain times, we can be bigger and better and more successful.”

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