If you don’t live in Southern Arizona, you may not have heard of the Howl ‘N Prowl, a small-town motorcycle show held annually in Bisbee, Arizona. The show has a focus on friends and family, and bills itself as a “vintage motorcycle and chopper round up.” With a little free time on our hands, we decided on short notice last May to load up the travel trailer and make the drive down to attend the show and hang out with some friends. We arrived early and had great seats to watch as the cavalcade of bikes filled the park and lined the streets below. It was a great event run by great people and to gain some insight, I sat down with the guys behind the show, Sam Donaldson and Matt “Tiny” Romero. We then rode out to the desert to shoot a few photos of the guys and their bikes. We settled into a restaurant for lunch and before we could even begin discussing the show a woman walked up to our table and asked Tiny if he had been the MC for the Howl ‘N Prowl show, she told us the show had been a blast and she looked forward to the next one.
Tiny (left ) Sam (right)
How did you guys meet?
Tiny: Initially through a mutual friend who told me that he’d found another guy who likes choppers, and we kind of ran into each other here and there. My bike broke down in Sonoita and Sam happened to be there, I didn’t recognize him in his cowboy clothes but, we took the bike out to his ranch and he helped me fix it up. Been hanging out pretty much since then.
How did you guys get into the chopper culture?
Tiny: I was born into it, really. My dad rode, and I followed along but, I didn’t want to be part of that outlaw culture, getting into trouble, not being there for my family so, I chose to do it my way and try to take the good things from that lifestyle.
Sam: It’s pretty recent for me. It started as a hobby, my brother in law gave me a project bike. It’s so different and interesting from how I was raised. I just grew into it and it satisfies an artistic outlet, a freedom outlet; it’s a personal thing. Tiny: He hasn’t been doing it long, but he’s the real deal, he’s really doing it and putting effort into doing it right.
What do you guys do outside of running shows?
Sam: I’ve always been a rancher, I’m 3rd generation. I manage a ranch for a corporation and I’m partnered with my dad on a ranch south of Sonoita.
Tiny: I just work for a living. My dad passed away when I was 17 and it’s always been about keeping a job, always working and figuring it out.
Tiny and his 1949 Panhead "Cowboy"
Where are you from originally?
Sam: Southern Arizona, right here.
Tiny: I was born in LA but, I’ve lived here the last 15 years. I’m from here, man.
Sam and his wife Jennifer with his 1971 Shovelhead "Moonlight"
How did the Howl ‘N Prowl show come to be? The first thing we did was the Wrench to Ride. We were always having to travel for chopper things to other places, big cities and stuff. We were kind of tired of the Harley Davidson tough guy bullshit and just wanted to get together with like-minded people, the grass roots people who are doing their own stuff in garages and learning as they go. We put together the H&P show as a way to get together and get to know those kind of people, fuck all the front and the show shit. We wanted people to know that no matter what they ride, they’ll be welcome, just leave the opinions at home and have a good time. It was us trying to build a community and grow the local chopper scene, we weren’t trying, and still aren’t, trying to change the world, we just wanted to have a good show.
How did you come up with the name?
Tiny: Sam always come up with the names.
Sam: The first one was at night and we just wanted it to be fun, like howling and prowling around.
Tell me about the first year. It was at a bar in old Bisbee, St. Elmo’s. The guy at the door, Tequila, he helped us by putting out cones and making it look more presentable and we tried to get things to give away. We didn’t expect it to be as big as it was, we wanted it to be a show but also a get together, like a slightly organized party. It was hectic, the bar was little overwhelmed and, we thought, we need to pay attention to this and help it grow. We had probably around 60 choppers and vintage bikes and somewhere around 150 other various bikes.
What did you learn from that first show? We learned a lot just from the people around the show. We thought we need to give away different awards. It was such an appreciative crowd and we wanted to involve more things and people than just the best bikes; we tried to include things like who rode the farthest and stuff like that. Scott Ross won the first year for Best Chopper and he started the idea of passing along the helmet award every year to the next Best Chopper. So, every year the last winner picks the Best Chopper at the new show. It seemed like a fun idea and we tried to make things more inclusive.
Sam: I just hit up everyone I could think of and they were friendly, let us use logos and legitimized it for us. Machine Age made the flyer, all the logos make it happen, the support makes it happen, simple. We learned don’t force it, events happen as they need to, and it takes care of itself, that’s the cool thing about it. Treat people well and keep it affordable.
Tiny: Community support, that’s the thing. We know that hanging out at shows in Phoenix and Tucson helped us build community for our show, it’s a give and take.
Why did you choose Bisbee as the location? It’s nearby and it’s a cool, artsy destination. It’s a nice ride with a little bit of everything for everybody. We had to talk to the city councilor to use the park for the next year’s permits, they’re very supportive and they’ve been good to work with for what we need.
What does the future hold for Howl ‘N Prowl?
Sam: It’ll evolve in its own way, whether it gets bigger or smaller. It’ll probably always stay a small-town Arizona show. We came into it when everyone was doing it, there’s so many shows, I don’t see it becoming a huge, national show. It may stay in Bisbee, it may outgrow it, we don’t have any expectations. It’s just a part of our life, not the whole, we’re not trying to build a name or be famous, we’re just trying to build and maintain friendships.
Tiny: It’s about the people who like to ride and build their own stuff. Some people ride the neighborhood and that’s fucking cool. Some people ride thousands of miles and that’s fucking cool, too. The people that go to the show go there because they want to be there, the remote location almost weeds people out. We get just as excited when Joe shows up with his Ironhead as when Showclass likes our post.
Who are the sponsors? Man, almost too many to mention. Biltwell has always been awesome, as well as ChopCult, ShowClass, LowBrow, Machine Age Tattoo, and Spartan Frameworks. They’re all listed on the flier, this year we had Showclass, 805 Beer, Machine Age Tattoo, LowBrow Customs, Biltwell, ChopCult, and Throttle Addiction.
My experience with the creators of the Howl ‘N Prowl show is that these guys are just true-blue chopper dudes. These are the guys that will give you parts from their garages, get down in the dirt on the side of the road, ride in the back of the truck in the rain, and do whatever it takes to keep another guy on the road. The Howl ‘N Prowl show takes place every year in May, and is still being held in Bisbee, Arizona. For more information on the show, check out oldshitrules.com and Instagram.