Wow! What a terrific rally this town puts on. It was bigger, better and a complete blast! Fayetteville’s Bikes, Blues and BBQ is one of 14 motorcycle events in the country that typically draw more than 100,000 bikers. This year’s attendance was 250,000 compared to 140,000 last year. Bikes of all kinds, jammin’ tunes from the bands, smoke from the BBQ contestants and vendors filled the air in downtown Fayetteville. Bikes lined Dickson Street parked in every conceivable space. Traffic was bumper to bumper up Dickson Street and around the corners as on-lookers ooohed and awed and pointed at their favorites.
Harley-Davidson seemed to out-number any other make two to one. Sport bikes by the likes of Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha did wheelies down the street, while BMW, Triumph, Ducati and Indian also made appearances in the lines roaring along Dickson Street.
Rally Director, Mark Pryor said this all started five years ago when a group of seven business men got together and said, “We need to have our own “little Sturgis.” With the attendance they had this year, they are well on their way to the name! Planning for next year’s event starts when this one ends.
It takes 600 volunteers, 3500 man hours and over 100 sponsors to pull this off. Mark and his wife, Carie Lynn alone put in 1800 hours planning, scheduling and organizing this year’s rally. Their goal is for everyone to come and enjoy Northwest Arkansas, and have a great time. He compared the riding in the Ozarks to the Black Hills and Colorado. “I just returned from a Round the Lakes ride with a group that started in Arkansas, and then went to the northern part of Wisconsin. As we crossed the Missouri and Arkansas line I told the group, we are just now seeing the best part!
According to Mark, there were a few changes to the rally this year;
one being that they did not have any off-site concerts. “It was decided the off-site music was competing with ourselves and everyone agreed all events should stay on Dickson Street. The vendors get more traffic and we have had bigger attendance in the beer garden where the main stage is located.”
I asked Mark what his plans were when the weekend wrapped up and he replied, “Well last year I was going to take a two-week trip to Mexico, but all the news media publicized it and then we were afraid to leave knowing everyone knew we would be gone! This year we are just staying home for some R&R.”
Friday night the BBQ teams were firing up their grill for the Saturday competition. Last year they had 7 teams and this year there were over 20 teams prepared to show who could BBQ the best chicken, pork, ribs, and brisket. Teams were divided between amateur or commercial for the judging. Fayetteville’s own NWA Mobile Storage competed in all the categories. In the miscellaneous category, they grilled ‘gator and shrimp. Ruben Garza, head chef was proud to show off his brand new grill that was being used for the first time. It was made by Marrows in Kennett, Missouri and is top of the line. It was a real beauty and according to Ruben it will hold 80 Boston butts and nine cases of baby back ribs. That is approximately $1,000 worth of meat!
This was their first year in Fayetteville, a sanctioned contest by the Kansas City BBQ Society (KCBS). They have previously competed at the Memphis in May BBQ contest with 350 other teams. Ruben and his assistants, Blake Ketchum, KJ, Sam, Governor, Lamar and Cary were enthusiastic, friendly and a fun group of cookers. The team was not only there to win, but have a fun time and down a few cases of beer! They invited our group to sample their BBQ and it was excellent. Ruben’s baked beans were outstanding. We licked our fingers and filled up on ribs, chicken, ribs, pork butt….and a few beers!
My husband and I are KCBS Master Certified BBQ Judges, so as we made our way to the other tents, we spent a lot of time talking with them about taste, tenderness, presentation, and judging criteria. Two
Butts Smokin’ from Pryor, Oklahoma were basting the grilled chicken
as we stopped by. When I asked their names they said, “#1 Butt was Mike Fullerton and #2 Butt was Andy Richard.” They have competed in other KCBS sanctioned contests, but this was their first year in Fayetteville. No “butts” about it, they were having a good time, but prepared for a long night ahead.
Another team of three, Godzilla from Little Rock, Arkansas said that two of them, Pat James and Madhouse were “no cooking skills workers” and pointing to the other guy, “he is the immaculate cleaning skills worker.” They had cooked at Memphis in May and won third place in ribs and first place in the Blind Taste Test.
Checking back after the contest on Saturday with the NWA team, we found they won first place in chicken, and first place in the People’s Choice in chicken. Way to go guys, congratulations!
There must have been at least ten BBQ vendors for rallygoers to choose from along the strip. We had a mean pulled pork sandwich at Hog Pen BBQ and owner, Dennis Forte of Conway, Arkansas came over to our table to visit and see what we thought of his BBQ. He was planning on competing in the contest also, but when we stopped by there Saturday night he said, “Man I couldn’t get away from our booth, we have cooked over 800 pounds of meat and have hardly slept in two days.” Ahhh, the joys of commercial BBQ!
The Saturday night highlight was the announcement of the Discovery Channel’s Biker Build-Off winner. They were there to film the season’s final episode. The series features a fierce competition between two of the world’s greatest custom builders. This episode featured, Cory Ness of Arlen Ness Motorcycles located in Dublin, California versus Eric Gorges of Voodoo Choppers based in Detroit, Michigan. Each builder had ten days to fabricate, paint and assemble a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle. Then they ride their creations to Fayetteville. Once at the event, the public gets to vote on which one they like the best. The Discovery Channel series is expected to air in late February or early March.
Cory and Eric’s ride to the Bikes, Blues and BBQ began in Huntsville, Alabama, at the US Space & Rocket Center for the “blast” off on Wednesday, September 29th. It took them 220 miles west through Alabama to arrive in Memphis, Tennessee that evening. The next day they traveled 280 miles northwest through the beautiful Ozark mountains to Branson, Missouri. The last leg of the ride was on Friday, October 1st where they rode 120 miles, through Eureka Springs to Fayetteville.
After 620 miles, they rolled down Dickson Street on their mean machines, where bikers have lined the streets and crowded around to get a glimpse of the awesome works of art they created. The crowd cheered, whistled and clapped to welcome Cory and Eric to the rally.
According to Cory, “It was perfect riding weather and no major delays in getting here.” By 7 p.m., both bikes were rolled onto the main stage for the long awaited announcement.
Cory’s bike came up first on the ramp, it was a 3-cylinder, slammed one off custom, awesome multi color paint job with a big beefy 330 rear tire. Next, came Eric, rolling up the ramp on his angular/edgy style Shovelhead, in the weeds, twin-carb, Springer front end, and his paint job was spectacular.
Both motorcycles were outstanding pieces of machinery. After all the votes were finally in, they announced the Best Bike-Builder was …Cory Ness! The crowd went wild and Cory beamed from ear to ear. Cory’s father, Arlen Ness was standing on stage behind him and was the first to hug and congratulate him. I got a quick chance to ask Cory how he came up with the design for his bike and he said, “You just have to do something different and this is what came to me for the design.” I also asked him what he thought of the Arkansas curves and he smiled and said, “It was great, we had a lot of fun and the weather was ideal.”
After Cory rode off, I asked Arlen what he thought of the Build-off and he said, “We are very proud of Cory and the bike he designed. I think both builders gave it their best and we thank everyone who voted for Cory.”
There were other custom bikes on display for public viewing that were show stoppers. The bike Cory rode in Hawaii when he raced and beat his dad was a glittering gold and red, all of the cylinders were diamond cut, along with the rocker boxes and swing arm. The fittings were all horizontal instead of vertical. The seat was made out of Cory’s wife’s leather jacket because it matched the bike! He promised to buy her another one after they literally took it off of her the day she was standing next to the bike! Voodoo Choppers showed off “The Whiskey Tango,” a custom bike featuring heat-wrapped pipes.
There was something for everyone, parades, bike show, gun and knife show and non-stop music. The Blues train departed from downtown and traveled to Historic Van Buren with a two hour layover for shopping and lunch. There were a couple of bike raffles to choose from, and plenty of food and drinks. There were over 100 vendors hawking everything from leathers, jewelry, dyno-testing and racing, to 25 different aromas of fuel fragrance for your bike! If by chance you weren’t interested in any of that, you could just sit on the curb eating your corn dog and watch the mechanical art show rumble down Dickson Street. It was obvious that no two bikes are alike and everyone’s is special. Individuality is what bikers are all about and that was displayed in the diversity of bikes throughout the weekend.
Except for the downpour of rain on Friday night the weather was perfect. Most people sought shelter during the rain and the street show traffic subsided. It became quiet and you could actually talk without yelling…..but only for a short while, as soon as the rain let up, the party was on!
Bikers came from all over for the rally. The group from Fort Smith, Arkansas was having a great “early happy hour” sitting on the outdoor patio of Gypsy’s. I had to mosey over to see what all the fun was about….Jay, Gary, Vicki, Rhonda, Suzie and Jerry have all attended the rally every year and always have an awesome time together. They made their reservations four months in advance and all of them commented on how big the rally is becoming. They think it’s well-organized and the area is ideal for some serious or fun riding.
They will definitely be attending next year. The tentative dates are September 29, 30 and October 1, 2, 2005. Organizers are still waiting for the Razorbacks football schedule to come out because they don’t want a conflict.
I had the opportunity to interview three members of the Covenants Motorcycle Ministry. Three chapters, each from Bentonville, Carthage and Oklahoma shared the security duties for the festival weekend. The motorcycle club was founded in 1998 by Gary Mills of Ashland, Kansas.
They are patch holders, but claim no territory. They are an international, spirit-filled non denominational ministry. The purpose of their group is to give Christian bikers an outlet for fellowship through a strong brotherhood. They send the message of God to everyone by handing out literature and bibles. Their members are all equal, they insulate themselves, not isolate as some groups do. They walk amongst one percenters and when called upon, they help with hospital visits, funerals, weddings or charity rides.
Kathy Bratcher said they were glad to be here to help and it has been a fun, but tiring weekend for their group. Her husband “Fleas” is the president of the Oklahoma Chapter. HJ Jones from Bentonville, just started a new Chapter with five members. In order to become a member, the club prospects you first. You then receive a bottom rocker patch, and then the club observes you for a while to see if you have the qualities they are looking for to be a member. If you do, you then patch in and become a full-fledged member.
They were excited and happy to help with the rally and stated, “We have not had any security problems so far and the organizers have been very nice to work with. We are all volunteers and appreciate the opportunity to spread the word of God to our fellow bikers.” The Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) also had volunteers helping with the event.
The Babes Contest sponsored by Knight Times Tattoo was held on the main stage late Saturday night. Winners were announced:
3rd Place winning $200.00 - Monique Koudella
2nd Place winning $300.00 - Melody Teeter
1st Place winning $700.00 - Tamika Painter
Lisa Willard, Pageant Director told us, “The contest went extremely smooth, and all the girls were so pleasant to work with. Backstage, everyone got along, even though there was a competition at stake. I want to give special thanks to the ones who helped me most throughout the Ms. Bikes, Blues & BBQ contest: Kevin Willyard, David Whitmore, Cleveland Huffer, and JT Thorton.
Organizers of Bikes, Blues & BBQ are making a conscious effort to keep the event clean and give it a family-friendly atmosphere. With more people than last year, it appears that Fayetteville can expect the Bikes, Blues & BBQ to leave a lasting impression on the community and rally goers.
Personally, this is one of the most organized, biker friendly (including law enforcement) rallies that I have attended. The winding, curvy roads in Arkansas are a blast to ride and you can’t beat the scenery.
Get the dates on your calendar for next year 9/29-10/2/2005
or log onto www.bikesbluesandbbq.org.
Story by Goldie Arnold
Photos by Terry Arnold, Roger Grove, Dave Miller and Goldie Arnold