MILLINOCKET, Maine — At least 800 people are expected when the Maine State Harley Owners Group holds its 2009 Maine State HOG rally at Millinocket Regional Airport and River Driver’s Restaurant at the New England Outdoors Center next week.
It will be 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.
The event’s preregistration, 579 Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders, vastly outstrips other rallies held around the Northeast, said Linda Billings, rally coordinator for Maine State Rally Inc., the organization putting on the rally.
“I am in contact with the other regional coordinators from New Jersey and New York and around New England, and right now it looks like the Maine rally is the only one that increased its numbers this year,” Billings said Tuesday.
The draw of riding on the Golden Road is a big part of the event’s allure.
“We have several things going for us, but Maine is a destination state and it [the preregistration] shows that Millinocket is a grass-roots, back-to-nature experience that a lot of people want,” Billings said. “It will depend on the weather. If the weather is good, I would not be surprised to see another 100 or so register on-site.”
Besides the Golden Road run, the three-day event that begins Thursday, July 16, will feature what’s called a “poker run” to the outdoors center by riders assembling at Harley-Davidson dealerships around the state, plus smaller poker runs during the event through town and the Katahdin region, Billings said.
About 10,000 Harley riders and HOG members are Maine residents, with residents from 20 states and Canada typically attending rallies. Many of the state residents are members of the state’s five HOG chapters, said Michele Bragg, the chapters’ rally registration coordinator and a Bangor resident.
The rally will be HOG’s first in Millinocket and has been informally endorsed by the Town Council and Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce. 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 bikes, Bragg said. Rally attendees typically spend about $250 per day at a rally, counting lodging costs.
The event also will feature Katahdin region vendors selling food and other items at the restaurant and NEOC, which is located on Medway Road just outside town, and at the airport, said Wendy Polstein, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband, Matthew.
A parade through town on July 17 will be among the highlights, as will the vendors and field events at the airport, plus bonfires, vendors and live bands at the outdoors center, Polstein said. The parade will be marshaled by the Pelletier family, stars of the Discovery Channel’s “American Loggers” TV show, Billings said.
“I am very excited and proud that this area was able to bring in such a high number of preregistrations,” Polstein said. “I guess they haven’t had as many preregistrations in a few years, so I am hoping this area will bring them back to enjoying greater turnouts for their rallies.
“Anyone can come to the food vendors and bands and see the events at the airport, so I am expecting more people than just the registrations,” she added.
As all rallies are about Harley owners having fun with their bikes, some of the events at the airport should be fun to watch, Polstein said.
The airport events include riders competing to race their bikes the most slowly; a weenie bite, in which passengers ride under a hanging hot dog that they take a bite from; and a hog wash, which has passengers trying to catch a water balloon they toss to themselves over a crossbar as they ride under it.
“There will be bleacher seating there for the public,” Polstein said.