MILLINOCKET, Maine — Almost a week after it ended, Millinocket’s first try at acting as host to a Maine State H.O.G. Rally still draws rave reviews, and the town has a good chance for the 2011 rally, the event’s coordinator said Friday.
Linda Billings, rally coordinator for the Maine State Harley Owners Group, said Millinocket wouldn’t be host to the 2010 rally because Sugarloaf USA in Carrabassett Valley already has it. But town business owners or leaders likely will get a very warm reception if they bid to hold the 2011 event, she said.
“It is just a matter of the powers that be putting in a proposal that will be voted upon by our members,” Billings said Friday.
Wendy Polstein, co-owner of River Drivers’ Restaurant, said she would consider applying to hold the 2011 rally. Her business was among several sponsors whose application led to Millinocket as the site for the event.
“I am sure this area would love to bid on this again,” Polstein said by e-mail Friday. “Maybe more [people] will be willing to help and make it an even better rally. I had not thought the interest would be so soon as I had thought [we had] three to four years, but 2011 sounds great.”
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, council Chairman Wallace Paul and Councilor Michael Madore praised the event during Thursday’s Town Council meeting as one of the most positive and healthiest for the Katahdin region economy that they have seen in recent history.
“The reports are absolutely glowing about how well everything went,” Conlogue told councilors. “There were no illegal activities, no injuries or accidents. I have heard no negative comments about any of the festivities, including from local residents.”
Held at Millinocket Regional Airport and River Drivers’ Restaurant at the New England Outdoors Center, the three-day rally, which ended July 18, drew 744 Harley Owners Group-registered attendees.
That was double the number that came to the 2008 Maine State Harley Owners’ Group rally in Westbrook, which drew 350, Conlogue said. More than 1,000 people attended the event overall.
The rally was the first large-scale event to allow motorcycles on the privately owned Golden Road, Maine’s primary conduit for loggers into the continent’s largest tract of contiguous forests. A parade through town and several smaller rides through the Katahdin region also occurred.
Such events, Conlogue said, are crucial to the Katahdin region economy not as panaceas, but as attractions of new people and interest, money for local businesses and positive press for the area. “These are the kinds of things that help drive the bus,” he said.
Billings agreed. A written survey of H.O.G. members seeking their opinions of what was best, and worst, about the town rally showed that they gave high marks to the staff and vendors at NEOC, Billings said.
“They were really excited about the riding, the people and the parades,” Billings said.
The worst aspect of the event, Billings said, was the weather, which was overcast and rainy for much of the event.
On Thursday, Paul and Conlogue talked about how H.O.G. members and rally organizers received a warm reception from residents and were impressed by it, while Madore also mentioned the event was well-handled by the town public works and police departments.
“They had never had that kind of reception before,” Conlogue said of H.O.G. members. “We now have 744 goodwill ambassadors around the state and New England that enjoyed themselves immensely and hope to return.”
H.O.G. members showed some community spirit by donating $284 to the Medway Fire Department, among other causes, Conlogue said. He praised Polstein and Shorey Ewing of River Drivers’ and Jennifer Olsen of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce for their work organizing the event.
Police Chief Don Bolduc, Fire Chief Wayne Campbell, Public Works Director Dennis Cox, Assistant Fire Chief Thomas Malcolm, airport manager Jeff Campbell and town employee Ralph Soucier also were praised.
The only outspoken and negative resident Billings said she encountered was Alyce Maragus, who twice wrote e-mails to Billings “saying that we should take our rally elsewhere and that no one wanted us,” Billings said.
“Her interest in the rally, I think, caused the townspeople to rally around and support it maybe a little bit faster than they might have otherwise,” Billings said.
Maragus said she didn’t know whether that was true, but she hadn’t changed her feelings about the rally. “The whole thing, as far as I am concerned, is a complete catastrophe,” she said. Younger town residents might have enjoyed it, but anyone older found it a nuisance for its motorcycle noise, she said.