By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Merchants from the local hospitality industry said this past week's annual motorcycle rally was far more successful and profitable than last year's.
Except for the first Saturday night into Tuesday morning, the weather was perfect, and merchants said their customers were happy to be in the Lakes Region.
"My week was fabulous," said Cynthia Makris of the Naswa Resort. "We did much more business than last year."
Russ Hart of Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith said his business was much better than last year.
"People were happy because of the weather and sales were great.
Both Hart and Makris said Motorcycle Week is a lot of work but for many merchants like them, it's the week that turns their season around.
"This is so important for us and for our employees for income," Hart said.
Following that same sentiment was Allen Beetle of Patrick's Pub, who said he had record sales for the past week and that his customers were really happy with the weather and with the rally.
He said the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion had crowds that pumped additional money into the local economy and his restaurant that made many of his employees very happy.
All three acknowledged that while many local people get annoyed with the traffic, the money earned by the local hospitality industry from Motorcycle Week goes right back into the local economy.
Makris said that with the revenue she earned from last year's rally, she was able to install a brand new security system from a Gilford contractor, while Hart and Beetle said the money their employees earn from the annual Motorcycle Week all gets spent locally.
Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Director Karmen Gifford said the annual rally is one of the key engines that supports the local economy.
She said this past week downtown Laconia was busy because of the activities generated at the train station, and Thursday's Farmers Market was packed. Gifford said she spent some time along Route 106 as well as Meredith and Moultonborough and said she saw eager rally goers visiting a number of local businesses.
Motorcycle Week Association head Charlie St. Clair said Monday that, with the exception of the LaconiaFest debacle, this past Motorcycle Week was a great event.
St. Clair said the state overall had an "absolutely wonderful" week and the people who came for the rally had a good time.
He said he was especially happy with the Passport program that saw businesses from all over New Hampshire and Maine list themselves on a "passport" and give stamps to the motorcyclists who visited their businesses.
"We were very pleased to get these kinds of results," he said, adding that the vendors were really pleased with the program.
St. Clair explained that bad weather affects only the New England and New York riders who may opt not to come on a rainy day. The people who traditionally come for the entire week and people who had planned their week for months in advance came anyway.
"Real motorcyclists deal with whatever we have to deal with, including the weather," he said. "We just adjust the way that we ride."
St. Clair said one biker told him that he was thrilled to see snow on Mount Washington on Tuesday morning and that although it prevented him from going up the road, he said it was one of his favorite moments.
Mayor Ed Engler said he spent most of his week in the immediate Weirs Beach area and said a lot of people came to Laconia and the Lakes Region and had a good time.
"Most business that offered information said they were having record weeks," he said. "One restaurant told me (it) had it's best day ever last Friday."
Engler led the I Love Laconia Ride on Friday and said he saw motorcyclists have a good long ride every where he went.
As to the economy, Engler said, "Think about what the week before (Motorcycle Week) and the week after and make a judgment as to whether it was a success or not."
"I don't see how anyone could conclude it was anything but," he concluded.