Photo: Ryan Deloney
It’s not just Fayetteville capitalizing on mania around the 18th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ this week.
Springdale, Bentonville, Rogers, Eureka Springs and other Arkansas towns are taking advantage of the expanding rally.
BBB is the world’s largest charity motorcycle rally, according to Tommy Sisemore, executive director for the event. “It pretty much stretches from Farmington all the way up to the state line,” he said.
The event, which draws thousands of people from various pockets of the country, has expanded in recent years to avoid outgrowing its hometown. Dickson Street, the centerpiece of the rally, will remain the hub throughout this year’s event. However, festivities in surrounding NWA cities may appeal to patrons weary of traffic jams.
The annual classic car show at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale is a popular attraction for visitors outside of Fayetteville. The event, according to BBB’s website, will begin Saturday morning and will feature “customs, street rods, vintage treasures, rat rods, even custom bicycles for the kids.”
The event has traditionally lasted into the afternoon and is set to feature entertainment from a live DJ, vendors, and specialty awards.
“Finding things during the rally my little boy can go and do is what’s important to me where I’m at in my life,” Sisemore said. “It’s just great to be able to walk around and see everything.”
Sisemore said that the Pig Trail Harley-Davidson motorcycle dealerships in Rogers and Eureka Springs each offer a variety of festivities to visitors.
Before relocating, Teresa Hurst spent the last three years planning and organizing for the event at the Pig Trail Rogers location. “I know we always put a lot of work into making Pig Trail feel like a real component of Bikes Blues,” Hurst said.
Cayla McGrail, who worked at the event as a sales associate for two years in a row, said her favorite part was meeting riders and experiencing the rally in a smaller, less overwhelming way. “It’s less crowded than Fayetteville, but you still get to meet new people from all over. And the food’s just as good, in my opinion,” she said.
BBB isn’t a stationary event, either. The rides are as essential to the rally as the shows, food trucks and concerts, according to participants.
The foliage-leaden Pig Trail Scenic Byway, which runs 19 miles along Arkansas Highway 23, is a popular picturesque route for motorcyclists during the autumn season.
Also, the Distinguished Gentleman’s ride is a national motorcycle fundraising event that takes place in dozens of U.S. cities, including Fayetteville. The ride, scheduled in accordance with the end of BBB on Sunday, will be a square to square event from downtown Bentonville to Fayetteville.
“I close down the salon so I can join in every year,” said Jenny Lawson, an owner of Fayetteville’s Dr. Follicles Hair Garage and yearly participant in the Distinguished Gentleman’s ride. “We dress up like fancy dudes and raise money for men’s health. It’s really fun and you get to see a lot of Northwest Arkansas.”
Participants in the race must own or rent a vintage-style bike, according to the website. Non-riders can participate at each town square and make donations to the organization, which funds several health-related medical and research programs.
Sisemore said he hopes the efforts of the rally to spread out as it grows will accommodate as many people as possible, even the naysayers of the event.
“The whole rally might not be for you, but we want there to be at least one event for every person to enjoy something about—especially for locals. You may not always love us, but let’s find some common ground where we can all get along.”
Ryan Deloney is a sophomore majoring in Journalism/English and minoring in Spanish at the University of Arkansas. The movie critic for The Arkansas Traveler, UA’s student newspaper, plans a career in magazines or newspapers.