What do garage bands, skateboarders, vintage car enthusiasts and motorcyclists all have in common? Well, they will all be at the third-annual Big Bend Bike Rally on Saturday, Sept. 25, at the Great Bend Expo Complex.
With more entertainment slated than ever before, the annual motorcycle event promises to draw a huge crowd — and not just the rough and tough biker crowd you might think of. Doctors, lawyers, and other working professionals also enjoy the opportunity to step out of their workweek uniforms and step into a pair of weekend jeans and riding boots.
In fact, a survey released in 2003 by the Motorcycle Industry Council suggests that the average motorcycle owner isn’t your stereotypical biker. When compared with the average American, motorcycle owners are older (42 vs. 35), have higher incomes ($55,800 vs. $48,868) and are better educated (more college) than the overall population.
Robin Fabricius, chairperson for the Big Bend Bike Rally planning committee, is a perfect example of this new breed of rider. By day, Fabricius is a partner at local law firm, Watkins Calcara, Chtd. She and her husband, Tim, came up with the idea of hosting a motorcycle rally in Great Bend after attending several similar events around the state back in 2008.
“Once I saw how many people these motorcycle rallies drew, I realized this could be good for Great Bend,” Fabricius said. “And with the Great Bend Expo Complex offering a drag strip and the space for campers and tents, I started to toy with the idea of bringing a rally to Great Bend.”
In its inaugural year, the Big Bend Bike Rally drew more than 1,000 riders from all over the state. Then in 2009, the event grew by more than 25 percent, despite economic uncertainty and inclement weather the day before. “We have been very pleased with our success the last two years,” Fabricius said. “We had great weather and lots to do, so it’s not a surprise that we had such a good turn-out.”
Entertainment coordinator Vicky Morrison added, “One of the biggest reasons for our success is our unique facilities that allow us to bring in more entertainment than a lot of rallies, which is the single most important aspect of an event like this.”
Since 2008, the Big Bend Bike Rally committee has taken dozens of strides to improve the event. One of the biggest accomplishments the committee made in 2009 was launching a new web site, www.bigbendbikerally.com. With several hundred unique viewers each week, the website helps draw people that might not have been reached otherwise. The website provides a comprehensive overview of the rally entertainment, as well as a schedule of events, information about rally vendors, maps of suggested rides, and much more.
“The best part about our motorcycle rally is that we have non-stop entertainment from 10 a.m. to midnight,” Fabricius said. “And this year, we’ve placed a special emphasis on racing and music.”
The Run What Ya Brung Drag Strip Races, hosted by the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association, are a huge draw all on their own. This unique opportunity allows bikers, hot rod drivers, and any other dare devil to race down the S.R.C.A. drag strip for $10 for one pass or $30 for unlimited passes. In addition to these popular races, a unique partnership with CPI Qualified Plan Consultants also means that the Big Bend Bike Rally will be hosting a headsup bracket race for nostalgic cars from 5-7 p.m. These nostalgic car races will supplement the CPI car show going on throughout the day, which raises money for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society.
“Every year, we’ve tried to have part of our bike rally benefit a charitable organization,” Fabricius said. “The Relay for Life Car Show helps us offer more entertainment while still giving back to the community.”
Another way the Big Bend Bike Rally gives back is through the United Way raffle. The non-profit agency will be selling tickets through the day of the event for donated prizes such as round-trip airline tickets from Great Lakes Airlines, a protective motorcycle cover, a brand new leather riding vest, gift certificates for oil changes and local restaurants, and much more. United Way Director Julie Smith said, “Tickets are $5 each or $20 for 5 tickets. We are hoping to sell upwards of 2,000 tickets, which would generate $8,000 for the 19 local agencies supported by United Way of Barton County.”
Whereas some spectators come to the bike rally because they have a need for speed, others have a need for rock-and-roll music. New to the Big Bend Bike Rally this year is the first ever Battle of the Bands competition. The competition will take place from 1-5 p.m., giving each band an opportunity to play a few songs. The talented performers will be scored by a panel of local judges to determine the first-, second-, and third-place entries. The first-place winner will receive a cash prize and the opportunity to open for headlining band Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights.
Tyler is a self-made musician who has been writing and recording his own music since he was 16. His five-person band has opened for performers like AC/DC, ZZ Top, Kid Rock, and Lynyrd Skynrd. The up-and-coming rock and roll group will perform in the bike rally beer garden from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.
In addition to the music and the racing, the Big Bend Bike Rally offers family-friendly spectator entertainment throughout the day. Stunt rider performances, grip-strength competition, on-site tattoo artists, vendors and concessions, an on-site skateboard competition, exhibitions from top alcohol cars, bike games, and an all-day beer garden are just a few of the exciting things that will be taking place during the event.
Businesses interested in supporting this community-oriented event can do so by purchasing wristbands as an employee incentive. Wristbands are available for advanced purchase at a discounted rate prior to the date of the rally by contacting the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development staff.
For more information about this growing event, visit www.bigbendbikerally.com or call the chamber at 620-792-2401.