While attendance at the 85th annual Laconia Motorcycle Week may have started out slow, it finished strong with thousands turning out at Weirs Beach on Saturday.
Thunderous pipes, miles of chrome, and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds summed up the scene of next-to-last day of Motorcycle Week 2008.
Despite the strong finish, bikers and event organizers believe attendance and sales in 2008 will likely be down from previous years.
“All 50 states were represented and much of Canada, but what we are finding is most just aren’t staying as long,” said Jennifer Anderson, director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association.
Anderson said more so this year than in the past, many bikers are not coming up and sticking around. Instead, many who live within close range made a day out of it and nothing more.
Joe Decesere usually comes for three days or more of bike week. However, this year he only came up for Saturday from his home in Maine.
Yet the economy didn’t stop others from experiencing Laconia Motorcycle Week for the first time.
“I’ve been meaning to get up here for this for the last 12 years,” said Pete Wesson, who finally decided to make the trip — and combine it with a visit to his ex-mother-in-law.
“It’s a blast. I’ve done about everything here and haven’t had any problems or complaints,” said Wesson.
While Lakeside Avenue and surrounding streets were packed on Saturday, many vendors on the strip reported lackluster sales for the week.
“I must be down 50 percent,” said Boone Thompson.
Every year, Thompson operates his Icicles Sunglasses stand at Motorcycle Week. And like many of the vendors, it was not the weekends Thompson had an issue with. Rather, he said, it was the light attendance during the week and the threat of rain every day that brought his business down this year.
Murat Oz, operator of the Biker Design T-shirt stand, was hoping his business would pick up over the weekend; however, by mid-Saturday afternoon he said sales were still down and not likely to equal last year.
“The rain is what throws it off. People see a 60 percent chance of showers and they’re not going to come up here for the day from wherever,” Oz said.
Still, it was a busy Saturday for the final weekend.
Overall, Anderson said Saturday evening attendance numbers seemed to be in the same vicinity as they were last year, however until it’s all over she would not know the final tally.
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