Bikes, Blues & Big Crowds
The familiar rumble of motorcycles rolled into Northwest Arkansas September 20-23, for the 18th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally. The entire area saw both an increase in traffic and in revenue, as events have spread from Fayetteville’s Dickson Street to Springdale, Rogers and beyond. The inaugural rally in 2000 had just over 300 riders in attendance, with this year’s attendance estimated at nearly 300,000. Not surprisingly, the little motorcycle event in the Ozarks has evolved into the largest charitable motorcycle rally in the United States. Despite its growth, organizers of the event have always kept in mind the rally’s original purpose: to have a family-friendly event and to provide support to local non-profit groups. In fact, organizers say the event has donated over $1.5 million to local charities over the past 17 years. In return, beneficiary organizations are often the first to pitch in with volunteers to help make the event run smoothly. Because volunteers are needed for setting up, parking cars, running the beverage tents, cleaning up and other tasks, it takes a lot of manpower to make it happen. “I worked on the Friday night activities,” said Tone Marconi Watkins, who was a volunteer for Child Care Aware. “I’m happy that Bikes, Blues & BBQ is a festival that gives back to the community,” she added.
Bikes, Blues & BBQ is about more than just motorcycles. In addition to showcasing the bikes, there were more than a dozen bands playing on the main stage with live music going on all weekend. Some of the other featured activities were the Miss Bikes, Blues & BBQ contest, a poker run and a car show. The lady crowned with the title of Miss Bikes, Blues & BBQ takes away a cash prize, along with bragging rights. Another popular attraction of the festival is the Parade of Power, when bikers travel from the Washington County Fairgrounds to Dickson Street, while spectators line the streets to watch. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Bikes, Blues & BBQ without the tasty barbecue. The official Kansas City BBQ Society/Arkansas State BBQ Championship was held at the Washington County Fairgrounds, and barbecue was also available from concession areas throughout the event.
The late September weather in the Ozarks was a perfect backdrop for the week’s events. Many locals were able to get down to Dickson Street to take advantage of people watching, great music and maybe even a turkey leg or two. Rogers resident Murray Austin said she feels a sense of community during Bikes, Blues & BBQ. “We’re all just people who love to experience the world around us on the freedom of a motorcycle. There are many ways to enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks, and riding in the back of my husband’s Harley is one of my favorites,” she explained.
To learn more about Bikes, Blues & BBQ visit www.bikesbluesandbbq.org. The final tally on funds raised for charity will be announced later this year.
“There are many ways to enjoy the beauty of the Ozarks, and riding in the back of my husband’s Harley is one of my favorite”