History of the Hollywood Happening









Industrialist Richard Wilhelm built the Hollywood Theater in 1926 after a devastating fire in 1924 destroyed the original opera house along with many of the buildings along West Main St. in Gowanda, N.Y. Since the Hollywood first opened, generations of patrons had passed through her beautiful brass and glass doors to enjoy countless movies, live stage shows and concerts. However time took her toll on the theater and, as did many small community theaters, she closed her doors to the public in 1992. Fortunately, although closed, she was not forgotten. In the mid 1990’s a grass roots organization began to form with the purpose of restoring the New York State and National Historic registered theater to its original 1926 condition. The theater was purchased by The Gernatt Family of Companies in the mid 1990’s, and donated to the Gowanda Area Redevelopment Corporation (GARC) and its future was turned over to a handful of volunteers to start the restoration efforts. After many brainstorming sessions discussing fund-raising possibilities, one idea emerged that would become The Hollywood Happening. 


Then called The Harley Happening at the Hollywood, the Happening began in 1999 as a one-day local event and has grown into a 3-day rally that is one of the largest and most anticipated motorcycle events in the region and attracts enthusiasts from all across the United States and Canada. The Happening’s planning and execution was led by Randy Rosen for the first 8 years with Gowanda Harley Davidson and the Gernatt companies being the major sponsors. In 2007 the Happening’s organization was turned over to the Gowanda’s Historic Hollywood Theater, Ltd. Under its direction, Randy’s vision has expanded and the number of sponsors and community involvement has grown. 


Every spring thousands of people travel to Gowanda to look at the rows of motorcycles that line the closed main street, enjoy the music and the food and celebrate the beginning of bike season in Western New York. It’s an event with no gate fee. The three-day event includes a number of attractions, such as the Bike Parade that leaves the Gowanda Harley Davidson dealership on Friday night and ends in town for the opening ceremonies. A tattoo contest, Ride-in Bike show and the Hollywood Happening Charity Ride are just some of the other attractions that can be enjoyed over the weekend. Enthusiasts can partake of the number of food and product vendors on-site, or simply sit back and listen to the live bands that will play throughout the weekend.


So, come and join the countless others who have enjoyed the Hollywood Happening and who have helped in the efforts to restore the Hollywood Theater to her 1926 splendor.

© 2015 K. Merrill

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