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Martinsburg Bike Night good for downtown, Hospice of the Panhandle

August 24, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Alec Carroll of Harpers Ferry checks out a glowing Harley Davidson motorcycle Saturday evening at Martinsburg Bike Night.
By Kevin G. Gilbert / Staff Photographer

Twelve years ago, fewer than 10 employees of the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office formed Blue Knights WV V, a local chapter of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club.

K.C. Bohrer, president of the local group, said members “decided we wanted to try to do some kind of a community event.” That effort, Martinsburg Bike Night, quickly picked up steam and has continued each year since.

On Saturday, the 11th annual event began with registration and a “Baddest Bike” contest at the Berkeley Plaza shopping center parking lot along U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg. Following the contest, about 400 motorcycles and even more riders — as some were doubles — set off on a 1 1/2-hour ride through parts of Martinsburg, Shepherdstown, Sharpsburg and Boonsboro before returning to Martinsburg in a noisy, energized parade.

More than 6,000 people gathered downtown for a rally, visiting vendors and a beer garden, dancing to the music of live bands and checking out row upon row of motorcycles. Many people who didn’t participate in the ride drove their motorcycles to the rally, Bohrer said. He estimated that nearly 1,000 were on display.

“This all came from a very small, humble beginning to what you see here today,” Bohrer said. “People like to see the pretty bikes and to hear the parade of bikes. They come down and enjoy it, and it’s just a fantastic evening for Martinsburg.”

Blue Knights WV V partners with Main Street Martinsburg, a downtown revitalization organization, for the event. Becky Linton of Main Street Martinsburg said “downtowns are the heart and soul of our communities.”

“That’s why we are doing this,” she said. “It’s brings people downtown. People like looking at the bikes — really beautiful, beautiful, unusual bikes, and all different brands.”

Linton said the more people go downtown, the more they become aware of Martinsburg, its heritage and what it has to offer.

Bohrer said area businesses support the event. This year, mostly through sponsorships, he said, the event raised nearly $28,000. Since the inception of Bike Night, Blue Knights WV V has donated a portion of proceeds to Hospice of the Panhandle.

“Myself and other members’ families had been touched by hospice,” Bohrer said. “We were impressed by the service and by the care that they give to families and loved ones, and we felt like they really make a difference.”

Maria Lorensen, development director for Hospice of the Panhandle, said the organization recently calculated cumulative proceeds from the event and “it came to nearly $100,000.” Lorensen said the event is a boon to all parties involved.

She noted that Blue Knights is a law-enforcement motorcycle club and, as a result, police presence is strong at Bike Night.

“The city of Martinsburg police and the department are very supportive because these guys are their guys and gals,” she said. “It’s a good experience all the way around.”

Boyd Dunson, 59, of Middleway, W.Va., sported a leather vest with official Bike Night pins he received for each of the four years he has been involved. He wears one pin upside down to symbolize the year he didn’t get to ride. This year, he was thankful that he got to ride his 2007 Harley-Davidson Sportser XL1200C in the event.

“It’s festive,” he said. “It’s an occasion. You get to see all kinds of people, and the bikes are really neat. It’s a lot of fun.”

Rick Wilburn, 57, of Martinsburg and his wife Debbie Wilburn, 56, rode in the ride and parade before meeting up with their daughter, Jennifer Graham, also of Martinsburg, and her two children, Kayden, 5, and Gracelyn, 3, at the rally.

“It’s the excitement, the enthusiasm, looking at different bikes and what everybody does to customize their bikes,” Rick Wilburn said.

Kayden Graham liked a two-seater he spotted down the row from his grandparents’ bike. And he still was checking out others.

“I like the engines and stuff,” Kayden said. “They are loud.”

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