Bike Week said off to good start

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DARYL CARLSON/CITIZEN PHOTO MONDAY’S SHOWERS did not deter motorcyclist from steaming through the Weirs to take in the 85th Laconia Bike Week

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Bike Week 2008 is off to a good start, say rally and law enforcement officials, even though some people — mostly from relatively nearby — are still a bit confused about when it really starts.

The rally began Saturday and ends this coming Sunday. It has always been held on the second and third weekends in June and more times than not the second and final Sunday was Father’s Day. Not this year, though.

There have been anecdotal reports that some people showed up in Laconia and surrounding environs as early as June 9 only to find that the rally didn’t start for another five days.

“The majority of the people we hear it from are from New England, if not New Hampshire itself,” said Jennifer Anderson, the director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, about those folks who thought the 85th running of Bike Week was at a date other than what it is.

For more than a year, the association on its website and through the “Rally News” magazine has promoted the fact that Bike Week will take place from June 14-22. The association even went so far as to get the Laconia City Council to officially decree that Bike Week takes place on the second and third weekends in June.

Nonetheless, Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson on Monday said he had gotten “quite a few comments” about the chronology of Bike Week, including from a group of riders that came up from Cape Cod.

“Why is the road open?” the riders asked Erickson, perplexed that the Weirs Channel Bridge was still permitting four-wheel traffic on what seemed to be the final weekend of the rally.

As a way of easing congestion in The Weirs, the bridge is closed to everything but motorcycles and service and emergency vehicles from Noon on the Thursday of Bike Week into the afternoon of the final Sunday.

While Erickson was telling his story, Anderson good-naturedly interrupted him, interjecting “See, see, New England” to prove her point that it was the relative locals who didn’t do the research that their more far-flung fellow travelers did before they even got on a bike.

But Erickson’s story had a happy ending: The Cape Codders liked being at Bike Week early, he said, in large part because they had a better choice of Bike Week items to buy than had they waited.

Laconia Police Capt. Bill Clary said from his department’s standpoint, the first weekend “went very well” apart from “a couple of minor accidents” that had Routes 3 and 11B backed up for a couple of miles at one point.

State Police Capt. Russ Conte agreed with Clary’s assessment.

“It was a good weekend, plenty of traffic, plenty of visitors.”

Anderson added more on that theme. While not citing specific numbers, she said first-weekend attendance was up, mirroring a nationwide trend of visitors coming to motorcycle rallies earlier rather than later.

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