By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LACONIA – Bike Week has been postponed until August. 22-30.
The Laconia City Council voted unanimously Monday night to cancel the 97th annual June event due to COVID-19 and to authorize the August dates.
Currently, hotels and motels are closed as is dining-in at restaurants by Gov. Chris Sununu’s emergency orders. While those are set to expire May 4, the governor has indicated it is likely he will extend them.
The event, which has brought as many as 300,000 riders and motorcycle enthusiasts to the state over the course of the nine-days, always ending on Father’s Day, has brought millions of dollars in tourism to the state.
Meeting remotely by Zoom, the council agreed to the Aug. 22-30 date, which was recommended by the promoters, Laconia Motorcycle Week Association.
City Manager Scott Myers said Tuesday morning that the city will “do the best we can,” though he noted “we are not going to make everybody happy” moving the event into the summer months when the Lakes Region is traditionally pretty busy with vacationers.
He said it is likely the event will not be as big this year in August and that some summer rentals are already in place. Also, vendors, who provide a lot of the city’s costs to cover the event with permit fees, may not come as they may have conflicts in scheduling, Myers noted.
“We will just have to wait and see,” Myers said.
On the Zoom call with city councilors was Jim Morash of the MS Mount Washington cruise ship which annually hosts a number of cruises for bike week enthusiasts. He needs a date certain, Myers said, because he has other groups booked in the summer and fall.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director for the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said Friday he was hopeful that the request would be approved.
“It’s too important an economic event for it to be canceled,” he said.
He said if the rally is postponed until August and the pandemic is not greatly improved in summer, he would also look to find a date and hold it into the fall.
Myers said the city has not gotten to the point of committing to a day in the fall.
“We can take baby steps,” he said, “there are so many unknowns with this pandemic.”
He said one question he had from an organizational perspective was whether or not police officers from the University of New Hampshire would be available in late August, as they have provided important help with crowds, and he has spoken with Laconia Police Chief Matt Canfield on the subject.