For most of the year, the population of the small New Hampshire town of Laconia is well under 20,000. For nine days in June, however, Laconia's population explodes by hundreds of thousands of bikers. Though the attendance varies for this major motorcycle rally from year to year, it is estimated to draw between 100,000 to 400,000 bikers annually.
Laconia Motorcycle Week prides itself on being the oldest rally in the United States. Motorcycle historians trace the beginnings of this rally to 1916 when a group of motorcyclists gathered at Laconia’s Weirs Beach. During its early days, this rally consisted mostly of races and hill climbs spread out over a weekend. As the years passed, more and more bikers began to attend this event, and they also began arriving earlier to Laconia, until the rally eventually stretched out over a week.
The Laconia rally, which brought a lot of business to the town, originally enjoyed support from the locals until a riot in 1965 broke out between motorcycle gangs and the police. Displeased city officials tightened down on the rally, and it was eventually reduced to a three-day weekend event, which resulted in a drastic drop in attendance.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that tensions finally eased enough between locals, the police and the bikers and attendance started to rise at the Laconia Motorcycle Weekend. By 1990, local businesses began to lobby the city and the American Motorcycle Association to once again make the Laconia rally into a week-long event. To aid in this effort, Laconia business owners and the Lakeside Sharks motorcycle club joined together to create the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association – now known as the Laconia Motorcycle Rally and Race Association -- which became responsible for overseeing the management of this event, including scheduling and promoting the rally.
Today, Laconia Bike Week is a nine-day event that begins on the second Friday in June and ends on Father’s Day. This rally features multiple rides -- including guided scenic jaunts, charity and poker runs –- biker build-offs, bike shows, lots of contests and competitions, and many vendors displaying all of the newest and most interesting biker gear available on the market. In addition, this event still features the races and hill climbs that first brought bikers to the Laconia area. Entertainment at the rally includes many live musical acts and a fireworks show.
Finding lodging for the rally can be tricky. With over 100,000 riders needing a place to hang up their boots, hotels book quickly in the Laconia area. Bikers who really want to stay close to the rally will need to book as far in advance as a hotel will allow them. If they are unsuccessful at that time, they should try calling the hotels around February to see if people have dropped their reservations or deposits have not been made to keep a room reserved. Of course, bikers can always book outside the immediate Laconia area, which will not only be easier, but also more than likely cheaper.
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