SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS, APRIL, 19-21–An unexpected cold front blew across Texas on Thursday, the day before the Beach-N-Biker Fest was scheduled to kick off, dropping the mercury and badgering riders with blustery north winds. The unusually cool weather this far into a Texas spring made scarves, face masks and leathers the standard attire for a ride to the Island on Friday—with chaps being anything but a fashion statement. But that would prove to be short-lived.
Founded by the Magic Valley Riders MC based in Harlingen, the club was celebrating their 10th annual Fest this year. The inaugural event was called Hogs and Dogs and was held at the Schlitterbahn Water Park on the south end of the island. Once the club made the decision to establish the rally as an annual venture, it relocated to the island’s north end and the Convention Center. With that move also came a dedicated focus—the desire to raise funds to aid various charities across the Rio Grande Valley. To date, the Magic Valley Riders MC, a nonprofit organization, has donated more than $200,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Family Crisis Center, Teach the Children and the South Texas Rising Scholars program. And this year’s Fest yielded some surprising figures.
Pre-registration for the event (a mere $15 online) set a record, coming in with twice as many advance-ticket purchases as had ever been received before. Friday’s gate attendance also set a record, and so did Saturday’s. The end result was a banner year for the event with the largest attendance ever, coming in just short of 7,000 registered people. Such is often the case when a rally celebrates a major birthday, and since this was the 10th annual, a large crowd was expected. But the surge in attendance goes deeper than that.
Ten years prior to the establishment of the springtime B-N-B, a fall rally was started on the island—the South Padre Island BikeFest. SPI BikeFest will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this October—except it’s no longer held on South Padre Island. Just a few months ago, the event changed locations and names and is now known as Corpus Christi BikeFest. But loyalties run deep in this section of Texas, with many throwing their support behind B-N-B as the sole remaining homegrown rally of any major size in the Rio Grande Valley.
Event Coordinator Eliel Hinojosa was quoted as saying, “I think the public is going to support us because the other guys are not here. But we’re still here.”
The gathering of the faithful actually started on Thursday night with a pre-party at the Padre Sunset Club that included music and free food.
Friday the Convention Center’s doors opened early with more than 50 vendors cramming into every available space (once again B-N-B completely sold out of vendor space). The day included a practice session for those wanting to hone their riding skills for the Biker Rodeo that would be held the next day, a weekend-long pool tournament and seven bands that started at noon and played until midnight.
Saturday included another nine bands providing nonstop entertainment, a Texas Hold ’Em Poker Tournament, a very well-attended Tattoo Contest, a Burnout Competition and a Bike Show. And although the Bike Show only featured 10 contestants, factory production bikes were well represented with an American IronHorse Texas Chopper, a K-9 by Big Dog and even a Big Bear Athena Springer on hand. And by noon Saturday, the temps were rising, the leather was dropping and the flesh was popping with shorts and halter tops in abundance, bringing out the island’s true character.
Saturday evening the annual motorcycle parade across the Memorial Causeway that spans Laguna Madre assembled at Port Road near the Lighthouse in Port Isabel at 5:30 p.m., which was great timing since the annual Queen Isabella Market Day (held at Lighthouse Square) ended at 4:00 this day. Right on schedule, the police escort pulled out and led several hundred riders across the bridge, onto the island and up Padre Drive to the Convention Center. I was stationed at the entrance to the island, which is where I met Michael Herrera and Ludivina Gonzalez. And they weren’t there just to witness the bike parade. Having known each other for 24 years, these two island residents decided to tie the knot as the bikes provided a thunderous procession and what they both considered the perfect backdrop to their marriage vows.
Back at the Convention Center the party carried on late into the night with local favorites Whiskey D. ripping up the stage until 10 followed by Unchained, a Van Halen tribute band, ending the night. While I was there, I also encountered a young maverick by the name of Torch who had been hired to entertain the crowd. Starting at the age of 19, Torch was a stripper for 13 years (think La Bare) before studying to become a cosmetologist (now that’s a “drastic” career move). He recently quit the security of his Fort Worth construction job and now lives a nomadic life aboard his ’05 Road Glide, performing at motorcycle rallies across the nation. But he’s not taking his clothes off. Or cutting hair. No, Torch is now a professional fire performer. He had just finished a show the weekend before at a motorcycle rally in Lake Somerville, Texas, and was leaving Padre the next day for Outer Banks Bike Week in North Carolina and then on to Maggie Valley and the Thunder in the Smokies before hitting Myrtle Beach. An unusual man full of enthusiasm, I wish him the best.
Although Padre is a small barrier island (less than a mile at its widest and only about six miles long before you run out of road), it packs a wallop throughout the year with activities almost every weekend, mostly centering on outdoor happenings. And one of the best times to experience the serenity of the place are the days following B-N-B when the horde of bikes leaves and the place becomes tranquil again. The businesses are well accustomed to motorcycle traffic and, after the hubbub of the rally is over, can dedicate extra attention to the lone biker. (I went parasailing on Sunday after the rally!) Plus, nearby Progresso offers some of the best (and safest) shopping that can be found across the border in Old Mexico. And that little burg loves bikers, too.
Coordinators Eliel Hinojosa and Troy Allen wanted to thank the Magic Valley Riders MC Inc. Harlingen and Hidalgo Chapters for all their effort and hard work that made the Beach-N-Biker Fest 2013 the best ever.
Hinojosa also extended his gratitude to all of the event sponsors including L&F Distributor’s Budweiser, Mad Boar and Desperado Harley-Davidson, Murry Meggison with Genco Energy, Rene Cardenas (Cardenas Toyota and Cardenas BMW), F&T Valley Motor Sports, the wonderful town of South Padre Island, Bert Ogden (Rio Grande Valley), Arnie and Debbie Carinin and Rick Masso, owners of Coastal Lifestyles, and Urbano Gonzalez.
“Where the highway ends and the beach begins” is more than just a catchy slogan designed to lure tourists to South Padre. The Island remains one of most noted party spots along the Gulf Coast with the most pristine beach to be found anywhere in Texas. Let’s just hope that Beach-N-Biker can hold onto that premier location for another 10 years.