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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hog Fest Roars Into Pioneer Camp

Many cattle laid down their lives to make this event possible.

Leather jackets, leather vests, leather boots, leather hats, leather pants -- the scene Friday afternoon near the burned-out Sexton club on 1st Baltiisky Pereulok was one seething, swarming, leather-clad mass of bikers, babes and hangers-on.

Moscow's Second International Bike Show kicked off Friday afternoon as hundreds of bikers assembled on Baltiisky and revved their motors in anticipation of 2 1/2 days of drag-racing, beer-drinking competitions, live concerts, dance marathons and beauty contests.

The organizers of the event -- the Night Wolves motorcycle club, Bikers' Association and Bike Center -- expected as many as 10,000 participants at the blowout, held at the Mir pioneer camp in Marfino, a village 20 kilometers north of Moscow.

Besieged by members of the press and bikers before the motorcade started for Marfino, Night Wolves' chief Sasha Zaldastanov, or "The Surgeon," looked every inch the tough ambling from his right deltoid to his wrist, punctuated by a wolf paw at the elbow.

In explaining the popular appeal of the bikers' way of life, Zaldastanov, 33, said: "It's not just a matter of speed and freedom, but a nostalgia for those times when there were real men. Those romantic, maybe tough times when a man was a man: when he wore coarse clothes, ate whatever God sent his way, slept on the ground -- that sort of thing. A biker is probably someone who has a romantic nostalgia for that time, a time now irretrievable."

Judging by the bikers -- leaning on their Urals, Dneprs, Hondas, Suzukis, Yamahas, even a couple of Harleys -- plenty are willing to follow Zaldastanov's "speed and freedom" lead.

Dima Boyarsky, 27, sat astride his 110-horsepower Honda in jeans and a sleeveless "Hard Rock Cafe Mallorca" T-shirt. A veteran rider but not a Night Wolf, Boyarsky planned to stay at Marfino for "probably two days" he said, "as long as my body holds out. When the vodka runs out, I'll leave."

Though the androcentric nature of The Surgeon's philosophy would seem to limit participation by the fairer sex, many women -- most perched on the backs of bikes -- turned out for the show. Yelena Ratusheva, 27, with her white-blond, close-cut, Annie Lennox-like hair, dressed in black hotpants and leather vest, posed for photographs on her friend Alexei's souped-up motorcycle, technically a tricycle because of its two back wheels. Ratusheva, who teaches dancing to schoolchildren in Zhukovsky, doesn't ride because, "I'm afraid that I couldn't hold [a motorcycle] up; I'm small and it's heavy."

But just before the procession took off, three women pulled up on their own bikes, greeted by whistles from the male contingent. Nastya Yekenina, a 3-year-old waiting with her mother for the appearance of her biker uncle from St. Petersburg, mutely looked on at the spectacle. When asked if she would someday ride a motorcycle, she shook her head slowly: "No, just a bicycle."

Another passerby watching the growing crowd almost wistfully was Maria Alexandrovna, 72. "We're already old, and the young -- for them, everything's still new and exciting and unusual. They want to be involved in something, show off a little. I think that's normal." That normalcy exploded in unison at 2:40 p.m. as bikers started their engines, stuffed flasks into backpacks, took last-minute swigs from 2-liter plastic bottles of beer and lurched off for Marfino under GAI escort.

Once out at the show's unlikely venue of the pioneer camp, the bikers and their babes scattered across the grounds like glass marbles on a smooth sidewalk. Amid the high weeds of the essentially defunct camp, claims were staked, tents raised and boomboxes cranked up. A huge sound stage had been set up to accommodate the head-splitting volumes of some of Moscow bands such as Black Obelisk, Metal Corrosion and Crossroads.

Admission to the show at Marfino costs 80,000 rubles ($15) for non-bikers and 50,000 rubles for bikers. Female bikers enter free of charge.