Motorcycle rally to be opened to the general public

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Nearly 20,000 people could attend an inaugural motorcycle rally in Hutchinson this July to experience a weekend of Kansas culture, events and unique entertainment.

A trio of local motorbike enthusiasts is bringing the Crossroads of America Bike ’07 Rally to the Salt City July 13 through 15 at the Kansas State Fairgrounds. The event is expected to attract motorcycle riders from across the country, elevating Hutchinson’s exposure and likely keeping cash registers ringing all weekend long.

But you don’t have to ride a motorcycle to enjoy the festivities. The event is open to the general public, and many events don’t require a working knowledge of hogs, said Michelle Abernathy, a rally organizer.

Abernathy and fellow Hutchinson residents Shane Copeland and Domae Wright have attended similar rallies in different parts of the country. They have long wanted to bring a rally here to help the community and provide local residents something different to do. They formed KTK Promotions and have been actively promoting the event at different motorbike rallies.

The rally is essentially a bonding experience, Copeland said. Participants get a chance to discuss different elements of owning and riding a motorcycle.

"Think of it as a convention," he said. "It’s a gathering of people with common interests."

The rally will consist of a number of events, concerts and contests at the fairgrounds and two organized rides out-of-town. Participants also will have time to visit Hutchinson attractions, eat at local restaurants and visit local merchants.

Abernathy said the Hutchinson rally is expected to get 15,000 to 20,000 attendees, a number she based on the central location, heavy promotion and turnout at other first-time rallies. The July event was planned to geographically coincide with the rally circuit, she said.

While the stereotype about bikers causing trouble still exists in some places, Copeland and Abernathy said that’s hogwash. Rallies in communities rarely cause problems, Abernathy said. Nevertheless, she said they plan to hire security guards, including four off-duty Hutchinson Police Department officers.

Copeland said the rallies he’s been to are largely self-policing. The riders don’t get out of line and they take care of each other. As for motorcycle riders being labeled hooligans, Abernathy said many riders are respected professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, who share a passion for riding.

There will be music throughout the rally, with the bigger names and the more "R" rated acts occurring in the evenings. Also performing will be the Purrfect Angelz Dance Team and the adult comedian Bag Lady Sue.

Abernathy and Wright said while the entertainment in the evenings will be for the adults, there will be plenty of activities for people of all ages in the daytime, including a bike show, bike stunts and demonstrations, vendors from across the country, and a dunk tank.

There will also be various contests judged by the crowd including best beer belly and Miss Crossroads of America. Additionally, all rally participants have a chance to win a free Harley-Davidson Sportster.

One of the more noteworthy events will be a poker run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 14. Bikers will ride to Wichita, then up to Newton, stopping at various businesses to receive their poker cards. A scavenger hunt will be held July 15 where participants will ride north of Hutchinson to find various items.

The exact economic impact remains to be seen, but Copeland said he spends about $100 a day while at other rallies. Multiply that times 15,000 potential visitors to Hutchinson and it’s a big boost to the local economy.

"It’s going to be fun for us and help the community," Wright said.

Participants can pre-register on the Web at www.crossroadsofamerica, by e-mail at info@crossroadsofamerica or by calling (620) 474-2546. Those who register by June 1 will get a free rally pin or patch. The cost to attend is $15 a day or $30 for the entire three-day event. A portion of the proceeds will go to Bikers Against Child Abuse.

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