In the US where everything is shrinking except the size of our national debt, the November 3-6 Lone Star Rally in Galveston Texas gathered a crowd close to half a million bikers. An outstanding attendance ranking the 4-day event the 3rd largest in the country, almost on par with the Sturgis and Daytona Rallies! At a time when so many rallies have disappeared or are producing dwindling attendance numbers since 2006, how is it possible that a weekend long rally only 10 years old attract so many enthusiasts? I asked to observers and happy participants and vendors why they think the Lone Star Rally is such a success.
First the city location, its warm and very pleasant temperatures at this time of the year, its very appealing downtown neighborhood of historic buildings known as The Strand, and a relatively young population (average age is 36) with a great sense of tourism and impeccable hospitality. But organizing a perfect rally pleasing both bikers, vendors and residents requires much more than this. A production team able to mirror the production of a blockbuster Broadway musical. `There are many moving parts to this well oiled machine called the Lone Star Rally and lots of details have to be taken care of to pull off such victorious event in a mere single weekend.
Concentrated mostly on the Strand, Harborside and Pier 21, it was a motorcycle-themed Mardi-Gras style party with beads tossed, smiling faces, laughter and dancing in the streets. What makes the Lone Star Rally so very unique is its celebratory nature rooted in both the rally producers’ goal to present a well rounded and entertaining event and the City of Galveston’s welcoming embrace. And this year again the event was well rounded with a treat for everyone. Television stars Tommy “Chibs” Flanagan and Ryan “Opie” Hurst signed autographs for eager fans lined up blocks to meet the Sons of Anarchy television characters. Michael Ballard and Angie of Full Throttle Saloon and TruTV show also greeted a steady stream of admirers. The bike builders’ lot showcased the edgy creations of Rick Fairless, the Martin Bros., Southern Metal Choppers and Bourget Bikes, among others, who were onsite to meet patrons. Fine artist, David Uhl, with illustrator, Danial James, set up an impressive Uhl Studio gallery of high end apparel and fine art at the D’Vine Wine courtyard on the Strand. Pinstriping artist Mark Brodie joined them. Yamaha and Can-Am held demo rides and Progressive Motorcycles created a carnival gaming area just off the Strand. A huge variety of quality merchandisers and food hawkers lined several streets throughout the rally. For the first time there was also a Star Roundup bike show with over one hundred bike entrants with judging by motorcycle icons Rick Fairless, Jody and Dave Perewitz, and Paul Yaffe, including other experts. “Man, there were some 2 of 3 really bad ass bikes in the show. It was awesome and I’ll be back to judge it again next year,” said Rick Fairless.
Co-produced by Rick “Dakota” Kempf of Motorcycle Cowboys, enthusiasts packed Pier 21 to check out the coolest bikes of all makes and models, including sport bikes and radical backyard builds. “This was one of the best bike shows I’d ever judged. It was excellent. Very well organized and fun,” said judge Puppy, an independent bike builder and Sturgis rally character. Jay Allen, founder of the legendary Broken Spoke Saloon, was the consummate emcee for the rally. He entertained like a one man show hosting the bike show and events and then engaging as master of ceremony at two stages. Time lined to the minute, he dashed from events to stages sometimes arriving on his FXR race bike sponsored by S&S Cycles and Baker Drive Train and rocking a tire burn out to rousing ovation. At the pier stage, concert guests Allen and Jody Perewitz, daughter of celebrity bike builder Dave Perewitz and fastest woman on a V-Twin at the Bonneville Salt Flats, went head-to-head in a burnout, which served as a high octane welcome to the rock group Buck Cherry. The Geico Bike-Giveaway was comedy for the vast crowds when Allen dialed the winner’s home number live to announce the good fortune earned from a raffle pick, and the lady who answered kept hanging up thinking it was a prank call. G.J. Portida of the Dallas area was the lucky winner of a Harley-Davidson Fatboy. He was tracked down far from home lounging in his hotel after a long rally day.
What’s a rally without honoring the military and first responders? Organized by Carrie Rep of R&R Promotions, the Lone Star Rally Freedom Ride attracted several hundred riders. Participants were treated to a country rock concert by motorcycle enthusiast and musician, Jared Blake, finalist on NBC TV’s The Voice, at the Jagermeister stage. Proceeds from the ride benefited Soldiers Angels. Rally superstars Farrell Webber, Ryan Rolando, Big Engine and Jasmine Cain rocked the Budweiser and Jagermeister Stages all day into the night. Houston act Josh Fuller and Dirt & Diesel kept the crowds dancing all the way to the last minute of rally. Other local musicians that appeared were Dimitri’s Rail, Dun Ville, Staci’s Edge, Zach Tate and O.G.R.E., which stands for Older Guys Rocking Excessively and rock excessively they did.
Appropriate to the Lone Star theme, Kolby Gray, a rising country star from Nashville, floored the Strand crowds with an acoustic version of his song, “Texas.” The velvety voice twenty-one-year old also opened for Marshall Tucker and Fuel on Friday night, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Buck Cherry on Saturday at a concert on the pier, an event presented by another group, separate from the Lone Star Rally.
Motorcyclists of every race, creed and club came together to celebrate ten years of the Lone Star Rally and pay homage to the motorcycle lifestyle. “From the one percenters to the first timers, all were in harmony. Everyone was respectful to one another. It was righteous and I was very impressed,” added Allen, now in his third year as host of the rally and a veteran motorcycle event producer. Accommodating and gracious certainly described the disposition of both the police department and fire department at the Lone Star Rally. “The secret ingredient to a rally’s success is to embrace it and that is what the City of Galveston does,” said Allen.
The Lone Star Rally producers recently renewed their contract for several more years and will expand back to the Seawall for 2012, providing opportunity for large manufacturers and more vendors. “The City of Galveston, the police, the fire department, the council, the mayor, and all city workers involved to make this rally work as efficiently as possible, including the residents and local businesses, are to be thoroughly thanked and acknowledged. The incredible support of this wonderful city truly contributed to the unprecedented success of this year’s rally.” said Lone Star Rally co-owner and producer Melissa Penland. “Great people, great times. What an outstanding gathering for our island,” commented Galveston Police Chief, Henry Porretto. Lone Star Rally. (Images by Bart Alan and Carrie Repp)