More than 4,000 bikers gathered in Marquette Saturday for the annual Thunder on the Smoky.

More than 4,000 bikers gathered in Marquette Saturday for the annual Thunder on the Smoky.

The annual event helps support the independent Kansas Motorcycle Museum in Marquette, which is operated with only funds from donations.

The museum features about 130 motorcycles from the early 1900s through the 1970s and was founded by five-time National Racing Champion, Stan "the Man" Engdahl. His wife, Lavona, is still involved in the operations of the museum.

The museum hosts more than 10,000 visitors annually from all over the world, said Jerry Jones, a museum volunteer.

"Stan had the inspiration to start the museum. He had the idea to show a couple of the bikes from his racing days and street bikes and his trophies. It took off like wildfire," Jones said.

A biker, who wished to only be known as Sarge, lingered in front of several antique bikes at the museum. He said he knew Stan Engdahl before he created the museum.

"He was a good ole man. ... He was the best flat track racer and set a lot of records in the 1960s," he said.

Saturday, the tiny town of Marquette was transformed into a biker hub.

Events included a poker run, bike show, games, drawings and a chain saw carving demonstration. A food court and vendors also were set up downtown.

Nick Drowatzky of Wichita is a regular at the rally.

"I have a good time," he said. "I come with my club."

Bonnie and Larry Embers of the Crossroads Crusaders of McPherson, a chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association had a booth at the rally.

Larry, 66, who rides a '99 Kawasaki, said he has been riding motorcycles since he was 14. He said McPherson County had some great places to ride.

Bonnie, who rides a 2006 Virago, said she has been coming to Thunder on the Smoky for the last four years, since she joined the Crusaders.

American Legion Riders Barbara Mohler-Spear of Lindsborg and Chuck Orr of McPherson rode the flag in for the rally Saturday.

Although the rally in Marquette is on the smaller side, they said they enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere.

Mohler-Spear has been riding since the '70s, and Orr said he has been riding since he was 16. Both riders said the rally was a good opportunity to connect with friends.

The Kansas Motorcycle Museum is on the southeast corner of Washington and Third Street in downtown Marquette. It is open year round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. The museum is open most holidays, but call ahead to make sure someone is there.

Special group tours are available by appointment by calling 785-546-2449. The museum is handicap accessible. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.