Williamsport Bike Night - A good idea

July 16, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS |
  • Bobby Decker and Roberta Cole look over a custom trike Saturday evening during the Williamsport Bike Night event.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT, Md. — Not long ago, inviting thousands of bikers to the center of a small town might not have seemed like such a good idea, said Jeff Davis, general manager of Harley-Davidson of Williamsport.

Not so anymore, Davis said.

As the motorcyclist demographic has aged and grown wealthier, cities and towns across the country have taken a cue from places such as Daytona Beach, Fla., hosting ever-growing events to welcome bikers — and their cash, he said.

The Town of Williamsport did exactly that Saturday night, closing its central streets to all traffic but motorcycles for an evening of live music, contests and lots and lots of bikers.

"The (town government has) seen how effective it is at getting revenue for businesses in the town, so they're totally on board with it," Davis said.

The event was Williamsport's fourth Bike Nite, and the first year it had been integrated into a larger Hagerstown Bike Week in coordination with the city, Hager Hall Conference and Event Center and other businesses.

Davis said he had talked to motorcyclists who had come from as far away as Georgia and New York for the event.

At Tony's Pizza Time Cafe in Williamsport, co-owner Mike Walsh said Bike Nite had meant a big boost for downtown businesses each year, and Saturday's event was shaping up to be no different.

"It is fantastic," Walsh said. "Every year, it gets bigger and bigger."

For the first time this year, Tony's set up a beer garden in its parking lot so people could drink while watching the bands. In previous years, those who wished to drink were limited to going to bars and staying inside, Davis said.

Kerry Henson of Williamsport, who was selling embossed leather and denim clothing and accessories, also said he had found motorcyclists to be a fairly affluent crowd. They have to be to afford the fancy, custom motorcycles ubiquitous at events such as Saturday's, Henson added.

"I've been to a lot of bike events and, maybe I've been lucky, but I've never seen any fights," Henson said. "They just want to spend their money and have a good time."

Henson's business, My Club Clothing, also does screen printing and was selling commemorative Williamsport Bike Nite T-shirts.

The black shirts featured a biker-rat clad in a leather jacket, helmet and sunglasses. The rat — named Willy, for Williamsport — is a nod to the days when Springfield Middle School's mascot was a river rat, My Club Clothing partner Eddie French said.

"We're bringing it back," French said.

Saturday's Williamsport-based motorcycle events also included a "poker ride" fundraiser in which motorcyclists rode from site to site collecting playing cards in a contest to collect the best hand. The poker ride was organized by the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.

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