LACONIA — Although the 100th running of Motorcycle Week is eight years away, anniversaries were among themes when Cynthia Makris, the owner of the NASWA Resort who chairs the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association (LMWA), opened this year's rally before television cameras and newspaper reporters with the traditional press conference at the Weirs yesterday.
The association, which began as the Laconia Motorcycle Rally and Race Association, is marking its 25th year organizing and promoting the rally. The Naswa Resort is celebrating its 80th year of providing hospitality and entertainment, along with fine food and refreshing drink to four generations of motorcycling enthusiasts. After making a stellar debut at the rally last year, G. Smith Motorsports of St. Rose, Louisiana celebrated its 50th year in business this year by riding 1,700 miles to Laconia to be the featured attraction at "Chrome Hill", opposite the Naswa's main office.
Working his 30th rally, Major Russ Conte of the New Hampshire State Police reminded everyone that all those who organize, police and attend the event represent something a kin to a family on the brink of its fifth generation by thanking Charlie St. Clair and Jennifer Anderson of the LMWA "letting me be your partner."
Makris struck the same familial chord by expressing gratitude, which she called "the most important emotion," to all those — the sponsors, patrons, police , firefighters and "all the riders" — who make Motorcyle Week "not only the oldest but also the best rally" in the country. "In Laconia we ride," she declared, adding that "our community takes pride of ownership in the rally and of our place in motorcycle history."
Introduced by Makris as "the most supportive mayor ever seen in Laconia for Motorcycle Week," Ed Engler eyed the crowd and remarked "I see way too many ties out there. You know who you are so you can make amends next year." The mayor noted that New Hampshire, where one in 17 residents owns a motorcycle — twice the national average — ranks second in per capita motorcycle ownership only to South Dakota, the state of his birth. Underlining Makris's declaration that "in Laconia we ride," he recalled once timing the gaps between motorcycles on Union Avenue on a weekend afternoon, which was never more than 20 seconds and averaged eight seconds.
Governor Maggie Hassan spoke of the rally as "a cherished tradition", then turned to its economic impact. She said that the event, which opens the summer tourist season, is expected to draw some 250,000 visitors, whose spending will generate more than $100 million in economic activity. "Motorcycle Week is an important economic engine," she said. She also stressed that the number of charitable events throughout the week are significant sources of support for organizations throughout the state that provide a wide range of services to needy individuals and families.
The governor urged visitors who enjoyed their experience in New Hampshire during the rally "to keep coming back throughout the year, but for the moment to 'Live Free and Ride.'"
Echoing the governor's pitch for philanthropy, Doug Asermely of Sickboy Motorcycles reminded everyone of the Mae-West Memorial "for the love of pets' Ride on Monday, June 15. Proceeds from the ride, ridden in memory of St. Clair's late cat, benefit the New Hampshire Humane Society.
On behalf of the LMWA, St. Clair and Anderson presented the annual Fritz Baer Award, named for the manger of the Gunstock Recreation Area who flamboyantly shepherded the rally through the halcyon 1950s, to Mayor Engler. The mayor was speechless.