The Second Half: Don’t judge this ‘book’ by its cover

"I'm not getting anything weird," said Ross Dunaway from the Reflections Hair Salon barber chair at Breast Fest, referencing prices for mohawks and head-detailing. "I'm just getting a regular haircut." Photo by Kathleen D. Tresemer

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Lessons learned in the first half of life often re-surface in our Second Half, maybe because we didn’t learn them well enough the first time. Today’s lesson: You can’t judge a book by its cover.

After writing a feature story about Breast Fest (July 23-24 at Winnebago County Fairgrounds)—the Iron Skulls Motorcycle Association fund-raiser for breast cancer research (July 21-27 issue)—I couldn’t stay away. Hubby and I mounted the Harley and headed out Friday night. Lots of folks expect “amusing and quirky” from me, but most Second Half pals were wondering if I had gone over to “the dark side” with this foray into the mysterious culture of motorcycle maniacs.

Twenty-something Son suggested solemnly: “Be prepared for nudity.”

“As long as it isn’t mine,” I answered.

Well, I didn’t see any nudity. In fact, I found the event resembling a big ol’ family picnic, only with all-fake wrestling and some pretty good bands for entertainment—one band, Cylinder 6, even donated their performance to the cause.

First stop was Moss Hall at the Pecatonica Fairgrounds—I remembered the place from our former life in 4-H. Moss Hall hadn’t changed much, housing vendors, games, and a bandstand in lieu of ag displays.

First cool exhibit—a 24-inch tall, pink-powder-coated metal ribbon with Breast Fest 2010 laser cut into it.

“We made these just for the event and people really like ’em,” Mike from Venom Powder Coating explained. “We have smaller ribbons on stakes for the yard and garden, and a variety of ribbon sizes for hanging.”

Venom is a relatively new business housed in Rockford’s old Atwood Building, and he coats motorcycle frames, car chassis, and tons of other stuff in wild and astounding colors. The pink ribbons were fabulous!

Next, the Reflections Hair Salon and Spa booth, set up by Megan and Kim Blunt—Reflections is on Benton Street in Winnebago.

“I’m not getting anything weird,” Ross Dunaway said from the barber chair, referencing prices for Mohawks and head-detailing. “I’m just getting a regular haircut.”

Megan smiled at Dunaway’s comments as she cut, “We thought these specials might be fun, and we’re donating half of our profits to Breast Fest this weekend.”

“Did you come all this way for a trim?” I asked Dunaway, resident of South Beloit.

“I came to check out Breast Fest and to join A.B.A.T.E.—I heard they had a display here,” he told me. “And then I saw Reflections and thought it would be nice to get a haircut.”

Massage therapist Kim Blunt was giving Michael O’Brien from Cherry Valley a chair massage: “We only started a couple of hours ago, and I’ve had a number of customers already!”

I wondered why O’Brien came to Breast Fest: “Well, I heard I could get the best haircut and massage here,” he quipped, as Kim kneaded his shoulders.

“Yeah, Mike, real smooth,” I thought, but who am I to stand in the way of youngsters aiming to impress? I moved on…

Dunaway mentioned A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois, so I visited their display. A.B.A.T.E stands for A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education, their mission to advocate for and promote a safe motorcycling environment and the protection of our state’s natural resources. Safety, education and legislative action—how cool is that? (Check out their website at

Later, I watched one guy getting a tattoo on his forearm: “Does it hurt?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, “a little.”

Then, I watched a woman getting her navel pierced—she cried.

Euro 2 Tattoo did 35 tattoos that weekend. They sponsored the Kickass Tattoo Contest, donating two $100 gift certificates to these winners: Men’s Best Tattoo done by Lee Delavergne at Sacred Art Tattoo, and Girl’s Best Tattoo done by Euro 2 Tattoo.

Up until that point, I was unable to locate any naked biker maniacs. I did, however, witness my first live burnout competition.

“What’s a burnout?” you ask. It goes like this: the biker drops the front tire into a tire vise or brace of some sort, to keep it from moving forward. Then, the rear tire is spun at an accelerated speed—like revving for a race—to create smoke, burning rubber and noise. The best “show” wins.

None of them was naked, either.

I saw the guys’ Hot Body Competition, a pole dancing event for men. It reminded me of high school talent shows—false bravado, embarrassed laughter and friends cheering them on. After their “dance,” they circulated in the audience to collect donations.

One of them took off his shirt, but that was the extent of the nudity. Really, how many times do I have to tell folks that most bodies look better when they are somewhat covered—thus, the invention of fan dancing and air-brushing!

Breast Fest had no fights, no problems, no riots in the street—just a huge storm and flood that only slowed them down for a couple of hours. The fund-raiser counted more than 1,400 attendees—and fund-raising totals will likely exceed their $5,000 goal.

Oh, and for those of you wondering how many of these folks are in their Second Half: almost 20 percent of the Iron Skulls are 50 or older. Thank goodness none of them was naked, either!

I’m closing the book on whining about the Iron Skulls and Breast Fest. Lots of fun while fund-raising for a great cause is COOL!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the Sept. 15-21, 2010 issue

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