BURNSIDE - Approximately 400 motorcycle and ATV riders, ranging in age from four and five to more than 70 years old, are expected on hand today and Sunday for the Valley Forge Trail Riders Anthracite Hare Scramble, the first major event of the season at the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, the county's off-road vehicle park.

This is actually the second time the Valley Forge group, which was instrumental in designing the AOAA courses, is competing at the facility. It ran a scramble last year over July 4th weekend, a kind of trial run for when the facility officially opened.

Rick Kivela, Valley Forge spokesman, said he found out about the proposed AOAA a couple of years ago at a club meeting.

"We put some feelers out and eventually met with Kathy Jeremiah (grant writer for the Northumberland County Planning Department) and Pat Mack, (AOAA authority member) and offered to set up courses for them we liked it so much," Kivela said. "They declined at first but last year they got back in touch with us to see if we were still interested and we jumped at the chance."

There were only a few people on site Friday but a staging tent had been set up and some recreational vehicles were on hand, as well as a handful of riders. But today and Sunday there could be close to a thousand people on site, including spectators, depending on the weather.

"Last year, we had 95-degree heat and a lot of dust," Kivela said. "This time we might have some rain, for the people who like the mud."

Although the main events are scheduled for Sunday, when American Motorcycle Association (AMA) and East Coast Enduro Association (ECEA) sanctioned series races are held for adults, Kivela said the real fun will be today, when the kids ride.

"If the kids are happy, everybody's happy," Kivela said. "There are going to be some really dirty kids and their parents are going to have to do a lot of laundry."

All riders must have an AMA card and be properly outfitted with boots, helmet and eye protection.

Although a young rider broke an arm during last year's event, Kivela noted that could have happened anywhere and that the group takes as much precaution as it can.

"When somebody gets hurt, everybody says 'Oh, how dangerous this is'," he said. "But that's just not the case. We've been part of the AMA since 1973, so we go back a long way."

The various loop courses range in distance from nine miles for Sunday's ECEA main event, down to a two-mile course for 50cc-class events for youths today.

Kivela said the AOAA course will appeal to riders who like more moutainous terrain and are a little more skilled.

"Pennsylvania courses are known as rocky and people expect that from them, and this no one is no different," he said. "In other areas, such as New Jersey, you have more sandy soil and some people prefer that. This course will be a little more technical in skill level but even if you're riding for the first time, it shouldn't be an issue."

Youth races include bikes and ATVs of 50cc up 150cc (for riders ages 11-15).

Riders are equipped with radio transponders, similar to a computer chip a road runner wears, to track them and keep their time, and take off in one-minute intervals.

"The people really like the ATVs up here," he said. "Sometimes I wonder if they've ever heard of bikes."