ALPENA - Even Mother Nature couldn't dampen the spirits of the Harley Owners Group members who participated in their annual rally held in Alpena Thursday through Sunday. Although there was some rain, which affected some events a bit, the group of bikers and the organizers in Alpena were pleased with how things turned out.
A majority of the bikers began arriving in town Thursday afternoon for registration at The Sanctuary Inn and by Friday morning more than 1,000 bikes and riders were ready to celebrate Harley Davidson. Overall there were more than 1,000 bikes in town, many of which had more than one rider on them. Bikes could be seen riding not only in Alpena, but as far north as Rogers City and as far south as Harrisville.
In downtown Alpena the motorcycles lined the curb of most businesses and the public rose to the occasion by making the visitors feel welcome and appreciated. Alpena Convention and Visitor's Bureau President Mary Beth Stutzman said she is pleased with how the rally went and complimented everyone in Alpena for making it a success.
"The ability of Alpena to pull together as a team and welcome the HOG participants to our community just blew me away. The positive response was overwhelming," Stutzman said. "Everyone I talked to said they couldn't believe how friendly our community was. They couldn't believe how many people lined the streets to watch the parade and they said we delivered the best opening ceremony they have ever had. Overall I am thrilled and proud of the entire event and how it went."
From the beginning it was expected that between 600 and 800 Harleys would come to Alpena for the event. It became clear early Thursday that the number of participants was easily going to surpass those preliminary estimates. Due to a lack to hotel rooms in Alpena many of the riders were forced to stay in other towns and commute back and forth. Stutzman said the riders didn't seem to mind because the main thing they wanted to do while in the area was ride their bikes and explore Northeast Michigan.
"After the first day of registration they had over 1,000 registrants and were still counting because people kept coming in. They had more bikes than what were expected, which was a good thing," Stutzman said. "We don't know how many others just came to town that didn't own a Harley just to be a part of it all. It was a place you wanted to be no matter what type of bike you ride and the fact we couldn't accommodate all of them in Alpena didn't seem to be an issue at all."
Perhaps the best part of the entire event, which was running concurrently with the final weekend of the Michigan Brown Trout Festival, was there were very few complaints or any trouble. Police Chief Joel Jett said the only issues the department faced were those associated with some of the logistics. He said no matter how well you plan, there are always a few snafus when there are large events in town.
"Any time you are expecting a group that large, organizing things is the most challenging part," Jett said. "Really the only incident was a small, two bike accident during the parade on Saturday, but nobody was injured. We weren't necessarily expecting problems, but when you have that many people, you never know what might happen. I can say we didn't have any issues. We didn't receive any complaints and I think everything went very well."
The experience gained from hosting an event the size of the HOG Rally will help Alpena host and plan similar events. Stutzman said every large event has a few hiccups, but the biggest disappointment came in the form of rain Saturday, which forced the cancellation of the group's closing ceremony, concert and a portion of the fireworks display.
"We know now that if we are on top of it and we work together, we can very well host other events of this size," Stutzman said. "I don't think the HOG Rally will be back for some time because they like to have it in different places, but down the road maybe they will come back. This was a huge positive for Alpena. We can now use what we have learned and do other things similar in scale."
The money from the fireworks that were not launched will used toward next year's Alpena Fourth of July celebration.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.