Hundreds of motorcycles are anticipated to roll into Hope and gather downtown this weekend for the debut of Hope’s Thunder on the Square – a motorcycle-style cruise-in – presented by Main Street of Hope beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday on the Hope Town Square.

Organizers expect upwards of nearly 600 motorcycles to gather for the event that will feature performances by country music star Jesse Keith Whitley, the son of the late Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan, and Hope’s own Night Owl Country Band.

“It has taken a bit, but with it being the first one I figured things would be a bit hectic getting it together,” says Matt Lee, executive director of Main Street of Hope. “All in all, the Main Street of Hope has been great. I delegated jobs and everyone did their jobs well, so we are going to have a pretty successful event.”

Since Lee initially took on the role of executive director for Main Street this event – or some semblance of it – was always in the background, he admits. It was an event he wanted to make sure came to fruition before he left his position this month, however, as luck and life would have it, Lee is now staying on until at least the beginning of 2023, he says.

Lee says the connection he and his fellow Night Owls have made over the years playing different venues and networking in the music industry have landed them some pretty unique opportunities, meetings and performances. 

He says Saturday's performance by country music star Jesse Keith Whitley, who is the son of the late Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan, is just another example of how the band’s hard work and dedication are paying off.

During a recent phone interview, Whitley – who himself is an avid motorcyclist – said he is really looking forward to visiting Hope and performing this weekend.

“I’ve been pretty much just about anywhere a man can go, I believe,” Whitley says. “I hear there is going to be some good food there. I love good food.”

Whitley says he is sending his band home and will be flying solo since this will be an acoustic show. Normally, the band has a full set list, however, when Whitley performs alone things tend to get spontaneous, he says. Performing acoustic shows, such as this one, affords Whitley the latitude to include more new material that hasn’t been added to the show yet, he adds.

Fans can certainly look forward to hearing some familiar favorites sprinkled throughout his playlist, as well as some of his own hits and new material.

“I definitely do one of my dad’s big songs ‘When You Say Nothing at All,’ ‘I’m Over You,’ and, of course, I will do some of mine like ‘Trying to Change My Ways’ and ‘Forever Know My Name,’” he says.

Lee says he and the Night Owl guys will perform a variety of fan favorites and new material with a shake or two of outlaw country for good measure.

There is no regular registration for this event, Lee says. But there will be a registration booth.

Lee says the process will work as it does when motorcyclists attend rides like Sturgis, they get a poker chip. And not just any poker chip.

“When they give their $10 donation they get a poker chip that says Thunder on The Square, Hope Indiana,” Lee says. “They can store that chip in their satchel. I didn’t know that is something motorcyclists collect.”

Within the Square that evening there will be several vendors set up, each representing a local business or organization, Lee adds. Among those in attendance that evening will be Abate Indiana, the Christian Motorcycle Association and Main Street of Hope will have a donation booth, Lee says.

The Hope Volunteer Fire Department will also have some tasty treats on the grill cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs.

Lee says the Ville Nutrition from Shelbyville is bringing their boba tea to introduce that evening – a new delight for people to try. The traditional Asian sweet tea is flavored with natural or artificial flavors and tapioca. It is the tapioca rising from the bottom of the cup as one drinks the tea that creates the “bubbles,” hence its name boba.

In addition to the Ville's sweet bubble tea, the Boy Scouts of America will also have a booth of delectable treats with a range of favorites from brautworst to sno cones, Lee adds.

At 10 p.m. the evening will culminate in a much-anticipated, resounding roar.

“All the motorcycles will start their engines and rev 'em up,” Lee says. “We are hoping they’ll hear it all the way in Columbus.”