MILLINOCKET, Maine — Like many other Harley-Davidson motorcycle owners in Maine, Michele Bragg thinks the Golden Road would be ideal for cycling.
So when she heard that owners of the private road — Maine’s primary conduit for loggers into the continent’s largest tract of contiguous forests — would allow the 2009 Maine State Harley Owners Group to ride the road, she jumped at having HOG host its annual rally in town, she said Wednesday.
“The idea of riding the Golden Road is huge,” said Bragg, the state HOG chapter’s rally registration coordinator and a Bangor resident. “Most anybody who rides Harleys in Maine knows you can’t ride the Golden Road. It’s a tremendous opportunity. Just with the scenery it should be a great place to ride.”
The three-day rally will be held July 17-19 at River Drivers Restaurant just outside town and another site to be determined, either Millinocket Regional Airport or Stearns High School, said Wendy Polstein, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Matthew.
Anywhere from 450 to 900 riders of Harleys and other motorcycles, mostly from the state’s five HOG chapters, are expected to attend, Bragg said. About 10,000 Harley riders and HOG members are Maine residents, with residents from 20 states and Canada typically attending rallies.
The rally will be HOG’s first in Millinocket. Lured by the high-end clientele the rallies attract, municipalities across the state compete annually to host the event, Bragg said.
A fully tricked-out Harley-Davidson motorcycle can cost its owner $30,000 to $45,000, with first-time aficionados spending $17,000 to $20,000 for their rides, Bragg said. Rally attendees typically spend about $250 per day at a rally, counting lodging costs.
“Last year’s rally was the smallest,” Polstein said. “It had about 450 people. They have had up to 1,200. We are hoping that we will get them back up into the middle, about 800 people or so.”
Polstein and other organizers plan to make the event a regionwide celebration, she said. River Drivers will turn its front parking lot and recreation area into a public fair, with two large tents, live music and about 20 booths featuring offerings from local restaurants, retailers, craftsmen and nonprofit organizations.
The airport or school will likely also have a fair, though those details are still in flux, said Polstein, who submitted the town’s host application to HOG and briefed the Town Council on her efforts last week. Councilors supported her efforts unanimously, as has the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and many area hotels and restaurants.
“This will be great for the whole area,” Councilor John Raymond said Wednesday. “This is one of those things that will help put us on the map.”
Besides the run on the Golden Road, HOG will hold a rally run from Bangor to River Drivers and from River Drivers through downtown, with a parade that organizers hope will be marshaled by the Pelletier family, stars of the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” TV show, Polstein said.
Some area lodgings already report rally bookings. The event’s timing, Polstein said, is just about perfect — two weekends after July Fourth and the weekend before the start of the busiest season for the area’s tourism and recreation businesses.
“If you can extend the busiest time of the year for businesses by another weekend, that’s really good,” she said.
Raymond doubted that motorcycle noise or crowd control will be issues.
“People in town have put up with the mill blowing steam off at all hours for years without a problem,” he said. “This event will be music to our ears. It’s a win-win for the town.”
Riders must register for the event to participate, Bragg said. Registration forms are available at mestatehogrally.com. Registration closes May 28, but registration can occur the day of the event.