Bike rally organizers expect bigger, better event
Just two months away from Merritt’s second Great Canadian Bike Rally, organizers are expecting the event to be even bigger and better than the first.
“We are looking at probably two to three times the number of people,” said organizer Mike Fairfield from the bike rally office on Coutlee Avenue. “And if the weather is right and everything falls into place, it could be even bigger than that.”
Last year’s event — the first of its kind in Merritt — drew nearly 5,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from Canada and the United States. Visitors participated in poker rides and biker games, shopped at the street mall and local stores, and enjoyed a full line-up of concerts at the main stage downtown.
This year’s rally, which will take place July 12-15, will have much the same flavour as the first but on a larger scale.
“We’re expanding just about everything,” said Fairfield. “The street mall will be expanded to accommodate more vendors and the biker games at the rodeo grounds will be duplicated on Friday and Saturday this time.”
Biker games at the rodeo grounds will also be expanded to feature vendors, a beer garden and entertainment in addition to the entertainment downtown and at Spirit Square. Already 25 bands have been booked to play the main stage including Harlequin, Streetheart, Jerry Ducette, Wild T and the Spirit and David Gogo.
Besides the downtown street mall, Fairfield said Central Park will be utilized to accommodate RV dealers and other vendors selling camping equipment. And the Supermoto races will once again take place in upper Merritt near the truck stop.
These expansions and high attendance estimates, are not just the result of organizers thinking big; Fairfield says certain indicators show they are right on track.
Online ticket sales, for instance, are double where they were last year at this time, and so are sponsors and the street mall vendors who have booked their spots. People also seem to be much more aware of the event, said Fairfield.
“We had an opportunity to attend motorcycle shows in Calgary, Vancouver and Tsawwassen, as well as a custom car show,” he said. “Last year we attended half of those, and many didn’t know about our event. This year, everywhere we went, people were talking about the event in Merritt and indicated they were planning to attend.”
Another positive indicator, said Fairfield, is that the rally shouldn’t have any competition during the weekend — Sturgis North will take place the following weekend and the Nakusp Music Festival has been cancelled this year.
Even so, planning an event this size has its challenges.
“Last year everything was a first for us, and there was a steep learning curve,” said Fairfield. “This year, we have a better idea of what to expect, but our main challenges seem to be growing the support and of local businesses and the community.”
The Great Canadian Bike Rally has the same goal as last year, he said — benefit the local economy and raise money to support two children’s charities, the BC Children’s Hospital and the Circle Square Ranch.
Organizers hope to be able to raise enough through sponsorship, partnerships and vendors to cover the cost of the events, so that ticket sales will go to the kids, however, they admit they aren’t there yet.
To accomplish their goal, Fairfield and his father Paul, say they are relying on the community for sponsorship, but also for volunteer support. Already, they have 20 volunteer team leaders organized and anyone interested in volunteering can download a registration form from their website www.greatcanadianbikerally.com.
Tickets are available online or they can be purchased at the Merritt and District Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re really pleased to partner with the Chamber this year,” said Fairfield.