By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "This a very big crowd for Wednesday," said Fire Chief Ken Erickson as he squeezed his command vehicle between the dense rows of motorcycles lining Lakeside Avenue yesterday afternoon.
"It's the good weather that's brought out a lot day trippers," Erickson said. This marks the 15th year he has worked the Motorcycle Week rally. While he has seen the seen the numbers swell, shrink and spread around the state, his overriding concern is the safety of those who pack the streets, cottages, campgrounds, hotels, motels, bars, restaurants, beer tents and entertainment venues at The Weirs, the epicenter of oldest motorcycle rally in the country.
Erickson said that this year's rally began slowly with cool, then wet, weather last weekend, which discouraged visitors on Monday and Tuesday before the bright sunshine and warm temperatures boosted the numbers yesterday. "I look at the parking lots to get an idea of the numbers, Erickson said, noting that while there were spaces to be had, even on Lakeside Avenue, most lots at the center of The Weirs were nearly full. "The traffic on Route 3 has been backed up in both directions," he said. He expected the appearance of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith on the stage at LaconiaFest last night would add to crowd, which he ventured could approach 12,000.
Apart from emergencies, Erickson said that the major concerns of the department are over crowding and trash disposal. The premises licensed to sell alcohol at The Weirs, both restaurants and beer tents, have an aggregate capacity of approximately 17,000. He said that while officials of both the Fire Department and the New Hampshire Liquor Commission monitor the numbers, the proprietors police themselves, knowing that the suspension of their liquor license would be very costly. The accumulation of trash poses a risk of fire, he said, recalling one case where discarded cardboard boxes were stacked beneath a deck where patrons were smoking.
During the week, Erickson said, the department has six firefighters on duty at the Weirs Beach Station and another six at Central Station, while on the two weekends of the rally the numbers are increased to 16 on the first and 22 on the second. He said that his greatest concern is the risk of a structure fire at The Weirs, where most buildings are of wood frame construction and access is hindered by congestion.
Erickson noted that as the years have passed rallygoers have aged, guessing the average age is now around 50. "These people are responsible," he said, recalling watching an expensive recreational vehicle tow an expensive pickup truck carrying an expensive motorcycle followed by another expensive pickup carrying an expensive motorcycle, all of which he estimated was worth close to $1 million.
Sue and Len Greene from Troy, New York, watch the bikes stream past on Lakeside Avenue for their 28th visit to the Motorcycle Week rally in Laconia. Below, a stormtrooper was spotted along Lakeside Avenue Wednesday evening. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 674