ROSALIA – Pete Morgan made sure he came downtown early Saturday.
He wanted to get a front-row seat. After all, he said, this rural farming community had never seen anything quite like the “Next 100 Years of Motorcycles” rally roll into town before.
Thousands of people filed past Morgan as he sat in a small bookstore, positioned to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the event – and hopefully sell a few Rosalia souvenir pins along the way.
“I like to take it all in so I can get the feel of what’s going on,” he said. “It really gives the town a boost. It puts our town on the map.”
Event organizer Josh Bryan, owner of Spokane motorcycle shop Northwest Custom Motorworks, is hoping Rosalia will become an annual destination for bikers from around the Northwest to gather, listen to live music and show off their rides.
“There’s not an event like this anywhere else on the West Coast, and there’s a huge following in the motorcycle world,” he said. “We want to let them have a place where they don’t have to drive 3,000 miles.”
Puget Sound Choppers founder Robert Carroll was driving back from Sturgis, a rally of more than a half-million bikers in South Dakota, last week when he first heard of Rosalia. He didn’t know what to expect but made the trip from his home in Puyallup, Wash., to get more exposure for his first project, “She Devil,” a bright red-and-orange bike that took him six months to build.
“It’s an attention-getter with the paint job,” he said, as people stopped to take photos of the bike and chat with him about how he made it. He said that although many riders can’t afford the $80,000 to $100,000 price tag of the specialized bikes on show at the rally, “it’s a lot of fun for everybody to come and look.”
Susan Reiter, who rode from Spokane with her husband, Gary, said she didn’t expect to see so many vendors – big industry names such as the Indian Larry Legacy and Arlen Ness Motorcycles had large displays, as well as several dozen other builders. Smaller vendors, selling everything from jewelry to leather vests to hand-carved wooden motorcycles, lined side streets.
“It’s amazing that they’ve brought as many bike builders to this area,” she said. “It’s a neat idea. It’s in your own back yard.”
Susan Reiter has been to more than 50 rallies across the nation in her 15 years of riding. She said it’s an important way for riders to get ideas from each other and from vendors.
“Bikers are basically a family,” she said. “They look rough, they look hot, but they’re not. They’ve got good hearts.”
Event organizers said the 10,000 entry bracelets they ordered ran out by late afternoon. Town stores rushed to keep a ready supply of food and cold beverages as temperatures climbed into the upper 90s. Empire Foods, the only grocery store in Rosalia, fielded a steady stream of customers and set up a hotdog and snacks table outside. Several homes posted makeshift signs offering camping and barbecue dinners.
Tammy, who preferred to use only her first name, grilled hamburgers on her front porch for passers-by. For three days, she’d stocked up on boxes of buns, cookies and other goodies in anticipation of the rally. She heard about the event in the town newsletter and decided to get a vendor’s license, she said.
“We’ve met some good people,” she said. “The town is usually pretty boring. Now it has a little life to it.”