ALPENA - When the Michigan State Harley Owners Group visits Alpena for its annual rally, there will be several events the local community can participate in. There also will be many private functions solely for the bike owners and their guests.
In order to make the rally and the rider's visit to Alpena the most enjoyable experience possible, residents must be mindful of what plans are in place for the bikers and not make alternate plans with expectations the visitors will show.
Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Mary Beth Stutzman said some local organizations, groups and businesses are making special plans hoping to capitalize on the extra revenue that comes with having the visitors to the area. She said it is important for the community to make the bikers feel welcome, but wants to be sure people making plans for the riders not on the HOG agenda, are risking a small turnout or little participation because of the schedule already established for the event.
"I have heard that some folks are scheduling events specifically for the bike group when they are in town and I just don't want anyone to get their hopes up," Stutzman said. "The last thing I want to do is miscommunicate what is happening. They have a full schedule of activities for their group. They have chosen Alpena as their venue. They aren't expecting us to entertain them the entire time. It is not out of the question they may pick up a few people who have come in for the event, but I just don't want anyone to be disappointed if they plan something and nobody from the HOG group shows up."
Stutzman said she appreciates that people want to go out of their way to accommodate the bikers, but added that they still be involved by taking part in planned events that include the public.
"We don't want to take advantage of them and their interest in us as a community, but there are things the bikers will be doing that people can take part in," Stutzman said. "There are ways we can interact with them. There will be a parade through town, which will be awesome, because there will be hundreds and hundreds of bikes and that will be impressive and the bikes will also be lined up downtown to be judged and the people of Alpena get to vote on them. There is a skills competition and then there will be the fireworks show, so there is a lot for people to do to support them while they are here."
Stutzman said some people have approached her concerned about having so many bike owners in town. She said there is a misconception about what a biker is. She said people associate bikers with leather clad troublemakers such as those depicted on television or in movies, when in reality HOG members are responsible members of the community.
"I have met with a number of the organizers and these are great people," Stutzman said. "We aren't going to see the stereotypical rough and rowdy bunch. These are people who are just like you and I. They have professional jobs, are hard workers, have families and many are retired. I'd hate for us to go to a stereotype in our heads about what a biker group might be. This is definitely not that stereotype."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.