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17th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ: Arkansas outpouring

By Rick Carr

Fayetteville, Ark., Sept. 21–24—For a rally that started in 2000 with about 300 curious bikers showing up, Bikes, Blues & BBQ has come a long way. From its origins at a Bike Night at Jose’s Mexican Restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to a presentation to the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce by Police Chief Richard Watson, BBB is now heavily sponsored and billed as the largest charitable motorcycle rally in the United States. BBB is attended by tens of thousands of riders with $70 to $80 million taken in by the city during a week of partying, with most of the proceeds going to local charities. This week-long gem draws riders, car buffs, barbecue wizards and blues lovers from all over the country.

I’d never attended the event before, but I was drawn to it after visiting local Harley dealers and talking with my biker brothers and sisters. So we decided to get on our scoots and head out.

dixon-street

The 2 ½-hour ride on an incredible weather day wound through southwest Missouri and was uneventful until we rolled into Rogers, Arkansas, the home of Pig Trail H-D. The bikes started getting thick and Pig Trail had good-lookin’ gals in the street flagging folks into the parking lot. It was packed and if you weren’t careful you could kill a few hours before even getting to the main event—not that it would be a bad thing. The brew tent looked inviting.

Once we got onto Highway 49 it started getting nuts. The lanes were full and everyone in a cage was gawkin’ at the bikes instead of drivin’ so even if you were paying extra attention the pucker factor was at 100 percent. I saw more stupid moves by cars and trucks followed by “birds” in 10 miles than I’ve seen in week-long runs.

After arriving in Fayetteville and meeting up with Michelle, our liaison from BBB, for desperately-needed directions, it was time to have some fun. She pointed us toward Dickson Street and a solid place to park close to the event. Dickson Street was packed with bikes and the only thing that stood out was the lack of a center lane parking area. The street was wide enough and the only thing we could think of was maybe the local constables nixed it.

It was a steady solid cruise. There was a constant rumble with an occasional scream from a metric and the heat from the steel gave you that “oh yeah” feeling deep down. Vendors lined all of the side streets, parking lots, and every nook and cranny available. One thing there was not a lack of were the official merchandise trailers. So if you were after a T-shirt, hat, skull cap or whatever kind of swag you could get in your bag, they had it.

battle-of-the-bikes-crew

The hub of Dickson Street was the Main Stage area. It played host to a free breakfast by Habitat for Humanity, a slew of bands, the Stokes Air Battle of the Bikes show and, the beer garden. The entry was well guarded by sweet volunteers to ensure no one carried in any knives—or rocket launchers.

The bike show was great. I was told entries were down from 52 last year to 44 but the quality and variety was better. This was a crowd-judged show. The top three finalists in each category chosen by judges rode up to the front of the stage and were given the mic to talk about their bikes. Emcee Laramie LaFarge worked up the crowd to cheer for each bike and the level of the cheers was measured by decimeters held on stage by a couple of ladies who were having way too much fun.

The rally covered a vast area in Fayetteville. Baum Stadium was host to the 5th annual Classic Car Show, Motorcycle Village, and another plethora of vendors. The Washington County Fairgrounds Campground and Saloon provided blues and brew from noon to midnight daily and the Monster Experience Venue was located at the Springdale Arvest Ballpark. Factory demo rides were offered all week, and there were even lawn mower pulls.

These guys covered all the bases, including a train that ran from Dickson Street to Baum Stadium every half hour. If you weren’t ready for it the train rolled in and scared the crap out of everyone with its horn. I saw one sister spill an entire beer on her better half. Poker runs were sponsored by the Fayetteville firefighters who have been doing this since the beginning with hundreds of riders participating each year. And if you really wanted to do something different there were helicopter rides.

Lots of folks who have been going for years know the routine. Get there on opening day, spend a lot of time in the wind checking out the scenery, and take in all the barbecue, beer and bands you can handle. Marc S. from Springfield stayed all week for the third year in a row and said, “We come here for the rides and the architecture; the Arkansas countryside has some of the best riding areas around.”

We are going to take the entire week next year and book a room now before they are all gone. See ya there.

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