Laconia Mayor Ed Engler welcomes people to the opening press conference for Motorcycle Week at the Gunstock Mountain Resort. The audience laughed when Engler said the press conference is “the only day the mayor wears a T-shirt while Charlie (St. Clair, Motorcycle Week director) wears a necktie.” Looking on are Phil Warren, Meredith town manager, and Cynthia Makris, president of Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILFORD — Laconia Motorcycle Week, the oldest motorcycle event in the world, is getting greater national attention, with Harley-Davidson expanding its presence this year and the American Motorcycle Association formally recognizing it as the longest-running National Gypsy Tour in the country.
“We all knew that, but it’s great to have the AMA recognize it,” said Jennifer Anderson of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association during the event’s opening press conference yesterday.
A number of speakers came to Gunstock Mountain Resort to kick off Laconia’s 94th motorcycle rally and celebrate the return of the hillclimb to Gunstock’s ski jump slope.
The first formal motorcycle hillclimb took place 100 years ago, and it was a staple of Motorcycle Week for much of its existence. The AMA-sanctioned event took place at Gunstock from 1946 to 1962 and again from 1993 to 2011, when the sponsoring organization, Ridge Runner Promotions, moved the hillclimb to Canaan.
The Motorcycle Week Association and Gunstock’s marketing director, Mike Roth, met with Mike Farnsworth of Ridge Runner to get the hillclimb back in Gilford after the five-year hiatus, and it is on the schedule at Gunstock on Wednesday, June 14.
The press conference — with the theme “We’ve Got It All” — provided an overview of the upcoming week’s activities, recognizing leaders as well as those working behind the scenes to make it a success.
Cynthia Makris, president of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, introduced the speakers, including Laconia Mayor Ed Engler, Meredith Town Manager Phil Warren, N.H. State Police Maj. Russell Conte, Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield, and Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson. Also speaking were Kris Nielson of the state Division of Travel and Tourism, David McGrath of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Greg Goddard of Gunstock Mountain Resort, Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s project manager, Samuel Klein, and district manager, Cody Gray, and Laconia Harley Davidson general manager Will Swart.
Engler commented that the press conference is “the only day the mayor wears a T-shirt while Charlie [St. Clair, Motorcycle Week director] wears a necktie.”
He noted that former mayor Paul Fitzgerald cleared the way politically for the revival of Bike Week, which had been a weekend event since the 1960s. “Now it’s one of the greatest events in the country.”
St. Clair, Engler said, has built a relationship with the other major rallies, in Sturgis, South Dakota, and Daytona, Florida, and representatives from Sturgis will be coming to Laconia this year.
“This event doesn’t happen by itself,” he said.
Conte spoke of the strong partnership between the rally and the State Police, saying, “The State Police have not transformed the rally, the rally has transformed the State Police. We now have a good relationship, and this is a vital group.”
For law enforcement officials, Conte said, it’s about safety. “We can’t control the weather, but we control attitudes, and how we treat people.”
Canfield agreed, “The safety of our residents and visitors is our priority, but we also want to see that it’s fun to be here. … When it comes to drunk driving, our goal is to have zero fatalities.”
Erickson spoke of the Peter Makris Memorial Run which takes place on Saturday and raises money for the Laconia Fire Department Lifesaving Fund, as well as Easter Seals’ N.H. Veterans Counts program and the Community Emergency Response Team, and other local charities.
“I met Peter Makris,” Erickson said, noting that, after firefighter Mark Miller died during water rescue training, Makris was the first to step up with a $5,000 check to purchase a rescue boat for the fire department.
McGrath listed the Bike Week-related events taking place at the speedway, including a swap meet, vintage motorcycle racing, bike displays, live bands, and the Wall of Death, as well as opportunities to ride around the racetrack. Those are in addition to the annual Loudon Classic motorcycle races and the opening of the New England Motorcycle Museum.
Goddard noted that this year marks Gunstock’s 80th anniversary, making the return of the hillclimb especially appropriate.
Gray said Motorcycle Week “is absolutely the most exciting time of the year” for Harley-Davidson. “It’s like Christmas for us,” he said.
Klein noted that Harley-Davidson is “moving back to the heart of Laconia” with its location across from the Weirs Beach sign, and it is expanding its presence to the duration of the event. The company is bringing in a “huge fleet” of demo bikes that will give people a chance to try out a Harley on a demo ride “on one of the best, most scenic routes in the country.”
A view of The Weirs during Motorcycle Week in 2010. (Courtesy photo)
(Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the first sentence, which had referenced the size of the event.)
- Written by Tom Caldwell
- Category: Local News
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