ALPENA - For three days in July as many as 1,000 Harley Davidson motorcycle owners will be visiting Alpena for the Michigan Harley Owner (HOG) Rally. Alpena was selected to be the gathering point for the popular biker event after more than a year of talks between event organizers and the Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau.
Since it was announced the rally will be in Alpena, the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority, Target Alpena and the CVB have been busy putting plans in place to make the bike riders feel as welcome as possible.
The rally officially begins on July 25, but DDA Director Lesslee Dort said she anticipates some to trickle in earlier and for others to stay beyond the events conclusion on July 27. While the bikers are in town there is a mix of activities, some that will be for the bikers only and others for the community as well. Dort said there will be several special events she hopes the public will come out and enjoy.
"We are expecting between 700 and 1,000 bikes and many of those will have more than one person on them, so there are going to be a lot of people coming to Alpena for the first time and it is exciting," Dort said. "There is going to be a parade of the bikes, fireworks and a skills competition just to name a few things. I would hope during the parade the streets are lined up with people waving and saying hello to the visitors.This will be a sight to see."
The HOG Rally will take place while the Michigan Brown Trout Festival is taking place and there will be no shortage of people from out of the area visiting local businesses. Dort said the business community already is making plans to accommodate the bikers when they arrive.
"A lot of the focus of the rally will be downtown or near the downtown area, so the businesses are really excited about the rally," Dort said. "They are already used to having the Brown Trout Festival here, so we are working closely with the Brown Trout to incorporate everybody together. I anticipate the business owners will have welcome signs out and we will have special welcome packages and discounts for them."
CVB Director Mary Beth Stutzman said one evening all of the bikes will be parked along Second Avenue where the public can walk and see the bikes and visit with the bikers. She said there has been a lot of work put forth to land the rally and hopes things go well. She said she hopes a good enough impression can be made to where the bikers want to return again either for another rally or individually.
"Normally they pick different spots every year, but I already asked them if they have a great time in Alpena if they would consider returning and they said absolutely," Stutzman said. "I think they are already looking at next year's location, but you never know about the years after."
To host a large event like the HOG Rally, accommodating the guests is one of the largest obstacles to overcome. Stutzman said the HOG organization knew from the start there aren't enough hotel rooms locally to house all the bikers. She said the organizers decided to hold it in Alpena anyway. She said many of the bikers will stay in a neighboring community and as a result those communities will benefit from the event as well.
"I would say they are going to be staying everywhere. When they came to us we told them we would love to have you, but we don't have 1,000 hotel rooms in Alpena. They said 'that's OK, you have nice campgrounds' and some will stay in Gaylord, Rogers City, Hillman and other towns and cities, so the region is really getting a lot out of this, not only Alpena."
Dort and Stutzman said more information and schedule details will be released as the rally date approaches.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.