LACONIA — Organizers and merchants proclaimed the 95th Laconia Motorcycle Week a success, saying crowds were large and sunny skies allowed the Lakes Region to shine.

Police Chief Matt Canfield said it appeared the annual event attracted more people than usual and visitors were generally well-behaved.

“It was a great week,” Canfield said. “The crowds were significantly larger than the last four years. The weather had a large part to do with that.”

But, with the influx of thousands of motorcyclists, many of whom were drinking, arrests were up compared to an average summer week.

Three fatal motorcycle accidents occurred over the last week, one in Laconia, one in Meredith and one in Hampstead.

In Laconia, Canfield said there were 65 arrests for the week, including 24 who were taken into custody for intoxication, 26 for drug-related offenses, three for drunken driving, four for domestic violence and eight for resisting arrest.  

There were 36 traffic accidents in Laconia, 14 involving injuries.

There was no official estimate for crowd size, but Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Motorcycle Week Association, said the event covers so much territory that more people participate than it appears.

Despite the near impossibility of judging crowd size for a diverse event like this, St. Clair claimed that 250,000 people participated last year over the rally’s seven days, and that this year’s event had even greater numbers.

“It looked a lot busier this year than last,” he said. “It’s hard to get figures from businesses, but one told me their business was up 35 percent this year.

“Motorcycle Week is always successful. Let’s say it was a terrible week and only 5,000 people showed up. You could still say that’s 5,000 more than would otherwise be here.”

He also said the rally brings incalculable goodwill and public relations benefits.

“On Friday, we had motorcyclists visiting a nursing home,” he said. “The residents had big smiles. This is something nobody sees.”

Some people become acquainted with the Lakes Region for the first time during Motorcycle Week, and end up moving here or buying second homes here, St. Clair said. This year, visitors came from as far away as Finland.

Will Swart, general manager of Laconia Harley-Davidson, said he couldn’t provide exact figures, but sales were up.

“I think the sunny weather and this being the 95th anniversary of Motorcycle Week were positive factors,” he said.

Before the rally, he said the event produces 30 percent of the dealership’s annual revenue.

Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, said many member restaurants and lodging venues reported strong business.

“Overall, with the good weather, things were pretty steady,” she said. “I actually was around the state through last week for different things, and I saw a lot of people on long rides and a lot of people coming down from Canada.

“A lot of the people who came to the chamber office said it was their first time here and said it had been on their bucket list.”

She said riders are astounded by the natural beauty of the Lakes Region, but will also find concerts, boating and various entertainment venues.

“They come here and want to enjoy the beautiful scenery, but they want to get off the bike, too,” Gifford said. “You can only sit for so long. There are things to interest everybody, from Jello wrestling at the Whiskey Barrel to offerings at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse.

“Sometimes they want to walk, or go to the hill climb at Gunstock, or things are happening at the track, or in Lincoln or across the Kancamagus Highway. Some have never been to the ocean before, and that’s part of New Hampshire, too.”

Police reported three fatal motorcycle accidents:

At 3:55 p.m. Saturday, Eric Leighton, 53, of Sandown, lost control of his Harley-Davidson on a sharp curve on Kent Farm Road in Hampstead.  The bike went down on its side, slid across the center line and collided with a pickup truck. Leighton was seriously injured and died in a hospital.

At 11:40 p.m. June 12, Joshua R. Lane, 39, of Carver, Massachusetts, died after he failed to negotiate a curve on Watson Road after leaving the Broken Spoke Saloon for a short ride to where he was staying.

On 3:39 p.m. on June 8, a motorcyclist suffered a fatal head injury when his bike struck the rear of a car that had slowed to make a left turn off Parade Road into a driveway, just south of Livingston Road in Meredith. He was identified as James Carroll, 61, of Nashua.

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