The history of steel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has a long line in the development of our nation, and the Carrie Blast Furnaces which operated since 1884 served up steel for 100 years before closing its doors. Since then the site, now saved by the community as a historic landmark, has been a safe haven for artists and creative types alike, to use the space for all sorts of purposes. Kurt Diserio of Pittsburgh Moto has been working to preserve vintage and custom culture in Pittsburgh for several years and decided to keep the historic space inspiring people by hosting the Glory Daze motorcycle show there and we here at Old Bike Barn were excited to sponsor and support the event. The show hosts a really great mix of bikes filling the entire main building of the blast furnaces with 2 wheeled creations of every kind, from custom choppers, flat track bikes, electric bikes, antiques and everything in between. Bell helmets also came on board to host the Trippy Ten helmet show where 10 artists painted helmets each in their own unique creative style. The event hosts a great mix of vendors and a whole outdoor swap meet area. The show also brought riders from several states filling the outside areas of the grounds with a whole separate show of ride in custom bikes from the east coast and beyond. Glory Daze aims to help spread excitement for custom motorcycles in the city of Pittsburgh and hits the mark in more ways than one.
We got a chance to speak with one of the events organizers Kurt Diserio of Pittsburgh moto about putting on the show:
Let's start off by giving our readers a little background on you and your wife Alexa. You make a really great team with you doing graphic design art and her with photography while both being avid riders. Tell us a bit more about what you guys do with Pittsburgh Moto and how that all correlates to your work in organizing the Glory Daze Motorcycle show?
Alexa and I have always used our creative abilities to make a living, even when it meant just barely scraping by. Motorcycles were something I was involved with from a young age, racing motocross and running a small parts shop in the 2000s with my father, Paul, and brother, Luke. My life revolved around bikes, which meant that Alexa's interest was inevitable. Early in our relationship, we started the creative venture company, Wild Native, as a way to oversee the many projects we had going on and offer professional services to clients. The experience we gained from managing Wild Native's complex operation allowed us to start publishing Pittsburgh Moto in 2017. The goal was to take our backgrounds in numerous creative fields and use that to construct a publication that could document and build up the local custom motorcycle community in the Greater Pittsburgh region. We knew that for Pittsburgh Moto to be a success, Alexa and I would have to combine our history in publishing, photography, and design with a business structure that would sustain itself in the long run. That meant low overhead and the ability to dig into this project in our free time while also working full-time jobs. In addition, we knew that in order for a local publication to pull an audience from outside of the region, it would need to look and feel impressive. To avoid being a dud from the start, we had to take a very limited range of material and present it in a way that would get people talking. Timeless content, great design, bold photos, few advertisements, and quality paper were key. The next logical step in contributing to Pittsburgh's motorcycle community was creating an event that could showcase local talent while also bringing in skilled builders from outside of the area. In the spring of 2019, we were given the green light from the good folks at Carrie Blast Furnaces to use their national historic landmark for the first Glory Daze motorcycle show.
How do you feel that the motorcycle scene in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area differs from say, maybe like other scenes around the country (west coast, etc), and did you aim to shed light on a certain aspect of that with the Glory Daze show?
Motorcycles have always been a big part of Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. From my perspective at the time, the major difference in comparison to other places in this country, especially the west coast, was that the scene in Western Pennsylvania was fragmented into pockets or groups. I realize that characteristic exists everywhere but felt that an event like Glory Daze could help bring these different groups together for a source of creative inspiration. Being able to see and study the incredible work of builders from throughout North America helped spark the interest of local enthusiasts. Ultimately, that was and still is the purpose of the show.
How many years have you been doing the show now and how do you feel it has evolved over the years?
This year's event on Saturday, September 24, 2022, will technically be our third show. Our first in September of 2019 was a big success that opened the door for Glory Daze to become an annual event. Alexa and I were very excited to keep momentum rolling into 2020, but the pandemic forced us to push things back a year. To say that we were bummed out would be an understatement, but the motorcycle community had our backs for another great turnout in 2021, filling the place to capacity shortly after the gates opened. When I first visited the grounds in 2018, I never imagined running out of room in a venue of this size. Looking forward, we hope to open up more space and add extra activities for Friday and Sunday. Personally, there's only so much I can do with my limited time, so it would be great for other groups or businesses in Pittsburgh to create their own side events that coincide with the Glory Daze weekend.
The show really has an "all-inclusive " vibe with a broad range of custom bikes but what style do you personally really enjoy working on or building?
People would probably label me as a chopper guy because of what's filling space in my garage, but in reality, I love all types of motorcycles. I just happen to know a lot more about Harleys, so that's where most of my attention goes. During my younger racing days, my Dad and I would try to squeeze every last bit of power out of my two-stroke motors, so I really appreciate it when builders put effort into the performance side of things. I also find myself drawn to more obscure builds. It's fascinating that we can still legally roll down the highway on these old, precarious machines.
The show is located in the Carrie Blast Furnaces which to most looks like a very wild and dilapidated abandoned structure but it actually has a long history and has been preserved as a historically protected facility now. Did you face any challenges putting on a big motorcycle show on the grounds and why did you choose this location for the show overall?
This might surprise people, but at the time, this was the only location in Pittsburgh I could find with enough on-site parking and indoor space for an invitational show. Unlike a lot of other cities Alexa and I have spent time in, Pittsburgh has very few options for an event like this. When I first inquired about doing the event at Carrie Blast Furnaces in the fall of 2018, the facility was not set up for the occupancy numbers needed. The crew there did a lot of work in order to get it to pass inspection by April of 2019. While there are many limitations due to it being a national historic landmark, I feel the old iron-making site is one of the main elements that draws people to Glory Daze. You soak in the history when you're there, and it fits with the groovy throwback theme of the show. It's as if you stepped back in time to a different era. With that being said, our small team only has one day to set everything up, and personally organizing every part of the show from the trash and toilets to the insurance and permits can be very stressful when also juggling a full-time job.
You included a helmet art show inside the event, how did the "Trippy Ten" part of the show get started? Tell us more about that.
When I initially reached out to potential Glory Daze sponsors in late 2018, Bell Helmets was the first to show support. I'm an artist myself, so once the idea of starting a helmet art show became possible, I knew I wanted to do it in a way that showed appreciation for the painters. My intention was to brand the side event in a way that would fit the psychedelic theme of Glory Daze and allow each artist to keep the helmet afterwards. The hope was that it would inspire the freedom to truly get creative with each lid. By limiting it to only ten selected artists, the Trippy Ten encourages more attention to go to every painter and the process leading up to the show where they are displayed with enough room to allow attendees to see the helmets from every angle.
What does the future hold for the event and are there any new aspects you would like to hype up for the 2022 show coming up for people to look forward to?
As long as we have the space and bandwidth, Glory Daze will continue to grow each year. We are looking to build on the additional space we added last year for the outdoor vending and swap meet area. As mentioned earlier, we are also open to adding side events on either Friday or Sunday to give those making the trip to Pittsburgh even more fun to partake in. My hope is that in the future Glory Daze will become a weekend motorcycle festival, with the main event continuing to take place on Saturday. Stay tuned and follow along on our social media pages for updates throughout the summer leading up to the show on September 24. See yinz there!
Old Bike Barn is happy to once again sponsor this great event and we look forward to seeing what great things you have in store for everyone in September!
Event info - @glorydazepgh
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff