Published DateLACONIA — "If you live in the Lakes Region and you want to raise money, the one week to do it is Bike Week," said Keith Hall, who for years has served as "day captain" on the Monday of the rally for the Laconia Rotary Club, which for two decades has raffled off a Harley-Davidson motorcycle for charity.
Hall, the owner of Kramer & Hall Goldsmiths, said he came to Laconia 38 years ago and for the first 17 steered clear of The Weirs during Motorcycle Week, before becoming a fixture when the Rotarians began the raffle. He recalled that the club was pondering ways to raise money when Wendy Perkins, who worked at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Meredith, suggested raffling a motorcycle. "Once we started selling raffle tickets," Hall said, "we realized that the bikers coming to the rally were people just like anybody else."
Usually accompanied by his wife Lilo, Hall takes the day off work, arrives at the booth , a 25-foot space on Lakeside Avenue provided by the New Hampshire Veterans Association, by 9 a.m. and stays till the close after dark. "It's not just me," he stressed. "This is not a one-man show. It's a lot of good people putting in a lot of their time to raise money for the community." When a third of the booth disappeared while in storage, Hall said members bought the lumber and hardware and assembled it, refusing to be reimbursed.
Hall explained that each year the Rotary Club purchases a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. This year the prize is a Heritage Softtail Classic FLSTC 103, a quintessential boulevard cruiser bred for the open road. Including the cost of the bike, the club incurs expenses of between $20,000 and $25,000 trailering it to events around New England in the quest for ticket sales. "The labor is all volunteers," Hall said. "We have members who may appear very quiet, but when when you need somebody you only have to ask and there they are volunteering."
"We aim to sell as many tickets as we can and generally sell at least $45,000 over and above expenses," Hall said, estimating that each year the raffle raises between $30,000 and $40,000. "Rotary Park. That's Bike Week money. A room at the Laconia Public Library. Bike Week money $10,000 a year in scholarships," he continued. "It's all Bike Week money." Altogether the Rotarians contribute to some two dozen organizations, including the Lakes Region Youth Leadership Program, Laconia Public Library Summer Reading Program, Laconia Youth Soccer, Laconia Little League, Laconia Youth Hockey, Salvation Army, Senior Santa and the Laconia Fire and Police Departments.
Over the years, the Rotarians have not been alone as other organizations also raffle motorcycles . "They're not competitors," Hall remarked. "The person who buys a raffle ticket for a Harley-Davidson goes to everybody who's selling them." He remembered when three different groups were holding raffles within sight of one another on Lakeside Avenue. "There was a drawing at four another at a quarter past and another at four-thirty and the crowd would come down the street from the one to the next," he remarked. "All for a good cause."