To The Daily Sun,
After reading the local new article from the July 2 edition titled "Heavy-Handed State Police & 'Nothing To Do' to top MW Complaint List" I had to laugh at how people stand around and scratch their heads wondering why the rally has been shrinking each year, but refuse to see or except the facts.
I believe that you can go back in the history of the event and see that the decline accelerated about two to four years after Jean Shaheen became governor of the state and implemented many new rules, laws, regulations and police directives concerning the event. In 2009 after the rally was held, the local Chamber of Commerce posted an article in The Sun looking for why the local businesses where seeing a decline in profit each year for the event week. I wrote this letter to the Chamber in 2009.
I am the owner of Aztec North which is a computer services business. I do very little service to the visiting bike rally crowd, but as an avid biker since my teens, I have attended almost every rally from the '73 to the present. I also grew up working in several local businesses frequented by "bikers". I have noticed two types of changes over the years that affect our local business community other than weather.
First are the annual trend changes ... every "Bike Week" tends to have its own personality in what types of people attend and the general make-up of the crowd. This change in crowd also changes where and how people spend their dollars while attending the rally.
The second change that affects the economic trends of a rally, in an even larger context, is political and economic change within the national, state and town levels. These changes have a larger impact on whether spending ends up in our local business economy or not.
An example of a political change that brought more money into our local economy was when the state passed laws prohibiting camping alongside the roads or in non-camping approved areas. This brought business to our local businesses that sell rooms. This also brought changed the population of the crowd to be based in the Laconia area, which positively impacted many businesses in our area such as restaurants, food stores, clothing stores and much more.
Another political change that I saw as having a positive change at first was the state's passing overly-restrictive laws on having adult fun at the rally. Restrictions were placed and strictly enforced on "dress code," flashing certain body parts, tire burn-outs, drinking alcoholic beverages in public and much more.
This had an initial effect by making the rally a "family" event and the attendance by families increased. This brought an increase to local business, yet again by the type of spending for this crowd.
I have noticed, though, that this type of crowd had dwindled over the last several years. There are two reasons I see that cause this downturn in a desirable spending crowd; one is the economy being down, families are more discerning as to spend their reduced vacation time and funding.
The second is what I call the "Disney Affect", where most families will visit Disney once or twice, then look for something else to do. In essence, the most dependable spending crowds for a bike rally will always be the dedicated "bikers" who attend the rally year after year as part of their passion. The majority of these people are not looking for a "family" rally experience with all of the strict laws in place such as the Laconia rally. A good portion of this demographic will save their limited funds to go to either the Daytona Beach or Sturgis rallies.
This year although weather was probably the main factor in reduced attendance, I notice something else that has affected the spending in local businesses in a negative manner. The Weirs and Funspot have become nothing but a huge commercialized vendor tent full of "gypsy" vendors. These vendors may bring the city income in the form of permits, but they are a very large distraction of funds for the local economy. With an ever increasing limit on non-discretionary spending due to economic times, once someone has walked the vendor tents and bought merchandise and food they will tend to avoid the local shops, restaurants as well as other services.
I notice a trend this year for the true "biking" demographic who are tired of the dictated "Disneyization" of the rally and the commercialization of the Weirs, Laconia and Meredith. These people are staying in hotels and other venues farther form the Laconia area and are spending their time (and hence their spending) taking rides throughout New Hampshire and surrounding states.