Putting on a motorcycle rally, no matter the size, is a lot of work. Whether it’s for 300 people or 20,000 planning begins well in advance.
The 30th annual BMWMOA Rally held July 2004 was as close as anyone can get to a model template for how to pull off a rally of this size. The event drew 6,000 riders from all over the US, Canada and beyond. It was a four day love fest of boxer lovers where all it’s sub-cultures came together for a fabulous four days of riding, socializing and general tom foolery.
On the surface Spokane would seem to be a less than desirable location for something like a motorcycle rally. The sweltering summer heat that rolls across this land between the Rocky Mountain and Cascade ranges isn’t exactly what you’d call inviting when it comes to motorcycling. But many a rider put on a wet tee shirt and got over it. The reality was that the fairground, with its recent refurbishment, is now one of the finest event locations in the state and rally chairperson, Jackie Hughes, took advantage of every square foot of the grounds.
As the planning progressed Hughes team even found a way to make use of the grandstand track area for more than just a closing ceremony. In a last minute effort they pulled off an evening of flat track competition that featured various classes of riders from pee-wee to expert. Off-site, Hughes worked out a track day with Pacific Supersport Riders that was put on at Spokane Raceway the day before the rally began.
Rally numbers for the four day event were interesting. Of the 6,000 riders present, 141 were from the Washington State BMW Riders club. But beyond the Washington club, the grounds had a number of riders from the state who are otherwise not club members. You had to look hard to find Washington plates amongst the many bike present. In general BMW riders like to ride long and hard and there were plates from all over the US as far away as Florida and Alaska. It’s everyone’s rally and the show of riders from all over was fascinating. 15 riders were present from the Internet BMW Riders club, an online amalgamation of riders from all over the world. There were also a number of local members from the VME and Moto Especial out of Anacortes.
The economic numbers are interesting as well. A national BMW rally puts $500,000 into the local economy, a number Spokane was happy to receive. The average attendee has a yearly income of $73,000. Both the city and the onsite vendors did well on this weekend.
If you wanted value, you got it. The registration fee was $35 for four days which allowed you on the grounds and camping if you wanted it – and a lot of people camped. Shirts, hats, food and otherwise were extra. But the best value to be had, and one that made a lot of sense was the beer garden offering of canned beer for $1 and micros for $2. You could not buy beer this cheap off-site which kept riders on site without having to ride back in after a few beers.
Spending four days at a motorcycle rally is as close as pagans such as myself will ever get to having a religious experience. Everyone was friendly, people had a lot of respect for one another, camping was tight but we all found a spot, the clinics and rides were enriching and from all I could tell everyone had a great four days. You left the grounds with a warm-hearted-feeling that beemed (no pun intended) of human kindness. You meet the nicest people on a … BMW?
Coming home was interesting. We had spent four days at a BMW rally. There was the scattered Ducati, Harley and Honda there, but 99% of the bikes were beemers. Imagine the minds shock on the return ride home when we passed 25 Harleys coming in the opposite direction.
It’s a diverse world out there. There are rallies for every kind of rider. No matter what you ride, if you have yet to enjoy a multi-day rally, find the time and do it sooner than later.
Everyone who worked on the rally committee did so voluntarily. From the guy who rigged the Wi-Fi setup, to the vendor coordinator and clinic organizers, no one was paid and did so out of their love for the community of people who share in their enthusiasm for the bikes they ride. Congratulations to Jackie Hughes and her team for putting on a world class rally in Washington State. It’s one we can all be proud of.