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Almost Fiction: Give us the facts

By Sam Jones

I don’t know how handbills turned into flyers, but I do know that handbills have been around for centuries. The colonists circulated warnings about the Redcoats on handbills and the FBI has photos of Lee Harvey Oswald passing out “Fair Play for Cuba” handbills in New Orleans.

“Richard, where are you going next month?” The weather is getting better and most of us are taking run flyers off the refrigerator door and adding them to our riding calendars. Richard always has a couple of choice events squirreled away.

“A couple of years ago I ran into a Colorado H.O.G. chapter barbecue. It’s got the best ribs and blues bands. It is my favorite.”

“Where is this H.O.G. barbecue?” I asked. He dug around in his tour pack and pulled out a wrinkled flyer.

My personal favorite lucky find was a barbecue in a little Nebraska town. I saw the flyer taped to the window of the gas station convenience store. “Fish Fry in the City Park!” it said.

“The date is today… great,” I thought. It was a terrific fish fry and potluck dinner hosted by the city fathers and the ladies’ auxiliary. They added a Little League game, band concert and a dance at the fire station. Having such a good time, I spent the weekend.

All of us have picked up flyers at motorcycle dealers, parts stores, restaurants, campgrounds and people have put them on our bikes in parking lots. In addition, the Internet also provides websites and printable flyers for events worldwide. I’ve seen both simple and complex flyers; annual ones that do nothing but change the date. Some have photos of beautiful semi-naked women and chrome motorcycles to entice the riders; some fill the page with logos. There are those that advertise thousands of raffle prizes and 50/50s, many talk about their entertainment and occasionally you get one that looks like it was written with a crayon.

Locally, we had a gentleman who rode to everything. He towed a trailer behind his Honda Gold Wing that set up into a mobile handout station with little bins for every flyer within 100 miles. We miss him.

In the last few years charities have discovered the big-hearted biker community, resulting in every fundraising organization in the history of the world now having an event that calls upon motorcyclists to donate to a “cure” or a “fix” for the society. If your interests run along those lines you certainly have a ton of charity/toy runs from which to choose. I find some of them overpriced, formulaic and redundant. Still, I pick a couple every year.

Some events get lost and the flyers thrown away, not because of the event, but because of the flyer itself. One example I remember was a flyer for a club run, a Shovelhead-only run, I was interested in. It gave the date, told us that everyone was welcome but only said, “Come to the clubhouse.” Sorry; I don’t know where the clubhouse is and after calling the information phone number found that it was disconnected. My Shovelhead was sorely put out that it missed the ride.

I love riding out of state to an event, but hate flyers that only name the town but not the state. How many states have a Richmond, a Lakeview, a Riverside or a Baker… all of them? Riders should not have to look up telephone area codes to find out where they are going. There was one exception. In Pennsylvania the flyer just said, “Poker Run, Sunday, Start at York H-D Factory.” Everyone knew where that was.

I have a suggestion for websites that list events. Break up the calendar into regions and/or states (like THUNDER PRESS ) so the reader can quickly geographically sift through everything. Don’t make us read each listing just to find out that the one we like is in Yellow Knife, Northwest Territories, 4,000 miles away.

While we are at it, why are you spending time on a flyer that doesn’t give the rider all the information? The “5 Ws” are what we want. Who, what, where, when and why; that is all we need. The logos and the photos are nice so long as they don’t interfere with the “5 Ws”.

Number 1: Who are you? Simple—are you a club, a H.O.G. chapter, a Chamber of Commerce?

Number 2: What is it? Is it a poker run, barbecue, a campout, a wet T-shirt contest, a charity? Different things appeal to different people.

Number 3: Where is it? Put the entire address on the flyer: street, city, state, country — even map coordinates. Remember we have GPS systems now and all we want to do is plug in the numbers.

Number 4: When is it? Sounds silly but I have seen flyers that didn’t include the date. Put the whole date on the damned thing reminding me that I don’t have last year’s flyer.

Number 5: Why are you having this and why are you asking me to deplete my gas tank? At $4-plus a gallon you better give me a good reason to drag myself to your event. And make sure the details are correct. A BMW friend of mine rode from California to North Carolina to an event that advertised “camping onsite” only to find that there was no camping onsite or any other place. Planning on camping, you can imagine how that tainted his view of their event. He won’t be going to any more of their hootenannies.

It’s simple—who, what, where, when and why. Write the damned flyer and have your bartender read it. If he doesn’t know everything from the flyer alone, you’d better rewrite it.


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