Erie, PA., July 19-22—Not long after Vendor Alley opened on Thursday, day one of Roar to the Shore, the rain clouds opened up as well. Intermittent rain was in the Erie area all afternoon and threatened to dampen the spirits and the clothes of riders from the Tri-State area, but then they remembered the words on the battle flag of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813—“Don’t Give up the Ship”—and applied them to this rally on Pennsylvania’s north coast.
By 4:30 Thursday afternoon, riders were streaming into the Presque Isle Downs and Casino parking lot, the staging area for the annual Bringin’ in the Roar parade and kickoff concert by this year’s grand marshal, Vanilla Ice. Although the weather did keep some away, those in attendance, including myself, had a fantastic time at the concert. That’s right; I had a good time at the Vanilla Ice concert. I’ll admit; when I heard Vanilla Ice was the grand marshal for this year’s event, I could have been considered a skeptic. I just wasn’t sure how he would plug into this rally, even though his list of accomplishments include motocross racing. He answered that best himself, saying, “Ain’t no shame in my game.”
Vanilla Ice and company, including the highly entertaining Krazy Klown, DJ Dirty Chop Stix and drummer Clint Eastwood, performed for almost an hour prior to Vanilla Ice leading the parade astride the Manufacturer and Business Association customized promotional motorcycle. An estimated 3,000 bikes paraded from the casino, past the zoo, down State Street and into The Hub (Perry Square) downtown. The one-way trip took about 35 minutes and locals lined the route in what can best be described as a tailgate-party atmosphere, enthusiastically cheering riders of all types. Upon arrival at The Hub, Vanilla Ice spent plenty of time greeting fans and signing autographs.
Other Thursday activities at The Hub included the Biker Billy Cooks with Fire show, a special flag presentation to the local family of fallen soldier
Corporal Jarrid L. King, the introduction of the Miss Roar on the Shore contestants and the bands Drunk in Memphis and Great White. The bands were free, but for those wanting an upgrade there was the Rocket 101 Beer Garden directly in front of the main stage. For $10, it may have been the cheapest VIP ticket around.
Friday featured demo rides leaving from The Hub by Victory and Yamaha. Harley-Davidson demo rides were scheduled from nearby Harley-Davidson of Erie at their Grand Opening celebration on West 12th Street. H-D of Erie featured activities all weekend, including live music, giveaways and contests.
A trio of scheduled rides was in store Friday. Lake Escape East toured Lakes Erie, Findley and Chautauqua traveling into New York State. The $25 donation included lunch, and the ride left from the Bayfront Convention Center at 11:00 a.m. A new ride, the Roar Microbrew Ride and Raffle, departed at 11:00 a.m. from Moe’s Southwest Grille. The 30-mile ride to Sprague Farm and Brew Works also requested a $25 donation and included microbrew tours, beer tasting and a custom carving demonstration. Last but not least was the Mayor’s Ride, a.k.a. Thunder on the Isle. Approximately 800 bikes followed Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott’s lead as he left Harley-Davidson of Erie’s new digs and toured Presque Isle. Presque Isle, French for “almost an island,” is actually a peninsula and a Pennsylvania State Park featuring 13 miles of roads and 13 beaches. Mayor Sinnott was also at the front of the Bringin’ in the Roar parade on Thursday. Friday’s night music at The Hub included Chrome and Slaughter.
Saturday the sun was shining on Erie, and the riders responded. State Street, the main drag through downtown, was closed to all but bike traffic for five blocks from 5th to 10th Streets. Bikes were parked two deep in the middle of State Street with a row down each side. And as it got later in the day, more bikes kept piling in.
The Hub featured two motorcycle stunt shows by Trevor Vines of nearby Conneaut, Ohio, and Paul “Smitty” Smith. The duo thrilled a crowd of
hundreds with various ramp-to-ramp jumps and aerial acrobatics. Smitty even threw a backflip and at 45, he is reportedly the oldest rider to do so!
Vendor Alley was jumping, too, with fans and riders waiting to meet master builder and all ‘round nice guy Rick Fairless of the Strokers franchise in Dallas, Texas. They were also spending money at the multitude of vendors selling everything from eats to seats. Wait times at one light installer were a minimum of two hours by late Saturday afternoon. The local non-biking community also joined in the spending and fun. Saturday night, an impromptu gathering of break-dancers did their thing to an appreciative crowd at Perry Square West.
Organized rides on Saturday included Roar to the Vineyards Poker Run, leaving from Off-Road Express with a $10 donation, and Lake Escape West, a 45-mile ride to Geneva on the Lake leaving from the Elk Creek Inn and sponsored by Roth Cadillac. A $25 donation included lunch. The first Ladies Only Ride departed from Off-Road Express West and also included lunch for the $25 donation.
Saturday evening included entertainment by the band Leader of Men, the crowning of Miss Roar on the Shore 2012 Shannon Dodds, and the announcement of several other weekend winners. Cruisin’ the Coast was one part poker run and one part raffle. Six area businesses were official stops for Cruisin’. Once stamped by all six, you were entered into the drawing for a $500 first prize, $250 second prize, and $100 third. The winners were Rose Walton, Jim Young and Brad Clinton, respectively.
The most excited woman in Erie Saturday night was undoubtedly Cecile Elfman. She was somewhere in the crowd when Mayor Joe Sinnott called her cell phone from the main stage to tell her she had won the 2012 Super Glide in the Harley-Davidson of Erie raffle. With a little help from the Rocket 101 Beer Garden faithful, she scaled the fence and made it to the main stage, only slightly worse for wear. Dabbing her cut lip, Cecile accept the bike from Kelly and Susan Lapping of Harley-Davidson of Erie and then started the bike. You could barely hear the bike over the roar of the crowd.
Saturday night’s headliner KIX wrapped up the official schedule for that day, and most revelers were on their
way by midnight. I stayed in the Avalon Hotel on 16th and 10th, as did several members of a wedding party who took it to the streets in full-on wedding garb Saturday night. It was the wedding party inciting wheel-spinning activities at that corner, not bikers. I must also say that while Harley riders are prone to blipping the throttle, the crotch rocketeers take it to a new rev-limiting level. Several of the bars up and down State Street were still doing a brisk business when I called it quits for the night.
Sunday featured a bikers’ breakfast at Presque Isle Downs & Casino, as well as a Bike Blessing. For most purposes, the process of transforming The Hub back into Perry Square was in full swing Sunday when I left for one more lap around Presque Isle. As the “Welcome Riders” sign hanging over State Street faded from view, the “roar” on Erie’s shore subsided—until next year.