By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
LACONIA – The hot legs contest, tattoo, and bikini competitions are on, but the annual Hill Climb at Gunstock and biker’s cruise on MV Mount Washington across Lake Winnipesaukee have been scrapped due to the pandemic.
There will be lots of chrome on Lakeside Avenue, though, and the thunderous sound of motorcycles will again resonate across the landscape as the 97th Loudon Classic is ready to roar.
Charlie St.Clair, organizer of the rally said they are recommending masks be worn and social distancing for both indoor and outdoor events. He said it would be recommended that people coming from outside New England quarantine 14 days prior to coming to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said in the past there have been many day-trippers from across New England but many come from outside the region.
“This year, all bets are off,” St. Clair said.
The 16th annual Laconia Bike Show and Swap in the downtown is canceled. There will be no tower to photograph the scene at the Weirs and there will be no large beer gardens this year.
There is one silver lining.
For the first time in its long and storied history, the 97th Laconia Bike Week will be held in the heart and heat of summer, rather than on the fringes of the season in June when it often rains cold rain.
Dubbed the “world’s oldest motorcycle rally,” which was not held during the Great Depression or World War II, Bike Week will not be canceled by the pandemic, which has killed close to 140,000 in the United States. In New Hampshire, 398 people have died from COVID-19 and 6,203 been sickened.
It’s on and it has been rescheduled from June to August 22-30.
It is not expected to draw the throngs it has in the past but it might still be the largest event in the state since March when much of the world shut down.
The Laconia City Council approved the rescheduling of the event recently but decided not to allow the licensing of vendors, who come from across the nation to hawk t-shirts and biker gear and have generally provided the funding through those licenses to pay for trash clean up, extra traffic police and such.
However, they have allowed non-profit and charitable groups to sell merchandise and souvenirs, noting that the event has been a huge financial shot in the arm to organizations like local Rotary Clubs.
Jennifer Anderson of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association produced a YouTube video noting that while the rally will be a bit different this year, one benefit will be that this one “is in the prime season of summer tourism” in the Lakes Region, where the event is headquartered.
“Much of what you normally would expect of the rally…(will) remain the same,” she said.
Anderson suggested enthusiasts check regularly at the website LaconiaMCweek.com for updates.
“COVID-19 will not get the best of us,” Anderson said.
Gov. Chris Sununu, who said he loves the event and has been there to kick it off in year’s past, said his office has been working with organizers constantly and expects that this year’s event will be a bit different due to COVID-19.
Sununu said a focus will be on many events being outdoors and that would be the best way to prevent the rally from becoming a super-spread event, noting that the rally is even more of a challenge than a NASCAR race at Loudon, because at Loudon, people are seated spaced apart and there is a limit on seating and it is a one-day event this year.
Earlier in the pandemic, Sununu didn’t sound very hopeful that they could pull off Bike Week as the organizers pushed to reschedule rather than cancel, but as New England’s COVID-19 numbers continued to go down, he sounded more hopeful.
Some of the rides are cancelled like the Ride to the Sky in which the Mount Washington Auto Road switches over entirely to a biker event.
A charitable fundraiser honoring the life of Peter Makris, a local businessman whose family continues to operate the NASWA Resort in Weirs Beach, is planned. His daughter, Cynthia Makris, has organized more events at her outdoor beach bar for this year and plans to have bands and competition and fun things going on throughout the week.
The Broken Spoke Saloon on Route 3 between Weirs Beach and Meredith, will host a hot legs contest Aug. 26 and a tattoo contest Aug. 28 while the NASWA will host a bikini contest Aug. 27. This year there is also a burrito eating contest Aug. 27.
Expect the chrome to be kickstand to kickstand again along Laconia’s Lakeside Avenue for at least the weekends of the nine-day event as there will be free parking for motorcycles and other vehicles will be prohibited.
Bike Week is quite a visual experience as well as a sensory one.
The place to see it all is on Lakeside Avenue in the Weirs. You can walk the beautiful boardwalk facing out on miles of open water and islands on Lake Winnipesaukee and it is free.
The rally is among the largest of its kind in the nation and it traditionally has drawn people from the world over, including many from Canada.
This year, with the borders closed because of the coronavirus, and people more concerned about their health than ever, it is hard to know who will show up and for how long and whether they will wear masks and keep themselves distanced as authorities recommend but do not require.
Just as the state has no helmet law, there is no mandate on face coverings.
Organizers are focused on a fun and healthy event this year while they eye the upcoming 100th anniversary in a few years.
That one will be a big one.
For more on this event visit LaconiaMCweek.com