For the 21st time, ‘The Happening’ — Gowanda’s biggest party weekend — returns in 2019, as usual on the weekend after Memorial Day.
The May 31 through June 2 music festival/motorcycle rally event is the unofficial kickoff to summer in Western New York, annually attracting visitors from numerous states and Canada.
Originally known as the “Harley Happening,” the event was the creation of Randy Rosen. With the help of others at Gowanda Harley-Davidson, Rosen began the Harley Happening in 1999 to raise funds for the just started rehabilitation of Gowanda’s historic Hollywood Theater.
The Gowanda Harley group continued the event through 2006 when the fatigue from the year-round effort forced them to step back. In 2007, the Hollywood Theater board took over the event under the name Hollywood Happening. They would continue the event through its 20th anniversary in 2018. At that time, with the theater rehabilitation getting close to completion and event fatigue setting in, the Hollywood group also backed away from staging the event.
Still, there were those in the Gowanda community who refused to allow this local highlight of the year fade away. A group of concerned citizens formed around a few people who had been part of the event back to the early years and the event was reborn again, this time simply as The Happening.
With the Hollywood Theater rehab in the home stretch, the current version of The Happening is no longer a theater fundraiser. Use of the event proceeds is now open to all entities in Gowanda that benefit the community. For 2019, the primary beneficiary will be the Gowanda Volunteer Fire Company Equipment Fund.
This year’s version of The Happening retains most of the signature features including the opening night motorcycle parade, a motorcycle stunt show and the tattoo contest. It will also feature an expanded number of bands throughout the weekend, including local favorites like Uncle Ben’s Remedy.
There will also be a few new twists this year. The Ride-In Bike Show has been replaced with a Virtual to Live version. From now until 11 p.m. May 12, motorcycle owners may enter photos of their bikes by e-mail to From Monday, May 13 to Thursday, May 23 at 5 p.m. there will be online voting at to find the three favorite motorcycles. During Happening weekend, there with be live voting to determine the favorite from the finalists.
More additions to the weekend are still pending. The Hollywood Theater will be open to the public and is working on activities/projects for that weekend. The addition of a Cornhole tournament has also been put forward and that is being explored.
The official website for ‘The Happening’ can be found at There is also a Facebook page at