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Steel Pony Express VII - New Orleans

Written by  November 30, 2004

If you have ever wanted to go to New Orleans, the Steel Pony Express Rally is the perfect time to visit, with temperatures in the high 80s. It falls over Halloween weekend every year, so mark your calendars for October 27-30, 2005. You can’t imagine what Halloween is like until you spend it on Bourbon Street, trudge through a ghostly cemetery tour, or visit the House of Voodoo, where spells are cast on all who enter. This monster holiday is second only to Mardi Gras, and the beads continue to be tossed from the balconies if you are brave enough to show some skin, or at times creative costumes won out.

This four day event takes place on the University of New Orleans grounds that run along the scenic shores of Lake Pontchartrain. The rally fee is $70 per person and includes a pin, t-shirt and entry to all weekend events. Security and parking was well organized, and if your hotel lodging was in the French Quarter, where parking is at a premium, the rally offered space on campus to park trailers, trucks and cars. There were signs throughout asking you to “mind your pipes” through the French Quarter and Lakefront, as they are residential areas and noise ordinances will be enforced.

Scooter Promotions, L.L.C. is the producer of the Steel Pony Express, and President, Karol Brandt, and her husband, Gary Sullivan are the ones who pull it all together. They share a passion for riding and creating an environment for riders from all over to come to New Orleans for fun and bike-related events. I asked Karol, “How do you bring it all together?” She said, “It’s like having a baby. You go through it for nine months, then labor, then the baby and six weeks maternity leave. After that, you start planning for next year’s event.” She has an incredible staff and volunteers, who can do anything, anytime, anywhere. Whatever was needed, they were there.

According to Karol, big bucks are spent promoting the rally throughout the United States, in which some 300,000 brochures are distributed. Karol and Gary travel to all the rallies and set up booths to promote the event. Public Relations Director, Skipper Bond, is with Proscenia, who is the firm contracted to handle all the marketing for the rally. Skipper did a splendid job seeing that the media had access to all areas of the event, and scheduled interviews and tours throughout the weekend. It was rare to see him in the hospitality tent relaxing; he was always on the go, answering questions and helping rally-goers.

Karol said, “Having the rally in New Orleans makes the perfect gumbo sauce by adding the best attractions, best vendors, and best bands to bring it all together.” When I asked Karol what has been the biggest difference this year, she said, “Of course, attendance is over the 50,000 from last year, but there are more riders from outside the region. They came from England, Hawaii and Germany, so word is getting around after seven years.”

There were over 300 vendors to check out and the system they used to assign space was like “marrying” the vendors together. They take a hat, sunglass, leather, parts and boot vendor and put them in one isle, then start over. That way everyone is spread out and the vendors don’t have the same competition right next to them. Some of the vendors I interview thought there were too many vendors and they were too spread out. Toshia Dunbrack, with Clean Ring of Elberton, Georgia sells cell phone covers and cases. Said she would only come back next year if she got a better location for her booth. Toshia sells her products online throughout the year and attends several rallies.

As far as I was concerned, there were no bad spots. It was easy to maneuver, and the isles were very wide so you weren’t shoulder to shoulder with other shoppers. I was impressed with not only the number of vendors, but the variety. There were numerous motorcycle dealers, manufacturers, painters, and bike builders represented, and the master bike builders were friendly and very approachable. Coyote Ugly Saloon had a bar set up with jammin’ music and dancing girls, and a few other vendors I visited, just to name a few, included Hogs for Dogs, Pit Bull Motorcycle Lifts, Acadian Ostrich Ranch, Bad Az Bikez, Cajun Climbing Wall, The Wicked Gypsy, Ken’s Boot Camp, Bodylites and Voodoo Ink City. The food vendors were serving up Cajun cuisine that would set your month on fire.

Louisiana offers the best variety of jazz, blues, zydeco and gospel, and you don’t have to go far to enjoy it. The rally was no exception to a great lineup of musical talent.
Friday and Saturday nights opened with an awesome lineup of bands, and the Purrfect Angelz heated up the stage with their music and dancing.

Lynryd Skynryd was the headliner for Saturday night, and played to a packed rock and roll crowd. Other activities included bike shows, a pin & patch contest, bike games, and watching the Team Extreme Sport Bike Stunt Team and Ives Globe of Death. Sunday afternoon brought Blood, Sweat & Tears to the stage, who performed for a small but mighty crowd. David Clayton Thomas sang all the old familiar tunes; Carry On, Evil Woman, Heaven All Day, God Bless the Child and an encore to You Make Me So Very Happy. The horn and trumpet solo was outstanding and complimented the band.

No fear of being bored in New Orleans, because there are many attractions to choose from as a visitor, including swamp boat tours through the bayous and canals in hopes of seeing a few alligators.

Our group ventured out for a lovely Saturday afternoon ride along the River Road to Grayville, Louisiana, where we returned to elegance by touring the San Francisco Plantation that was built in 1856. The Gothic windows, ornate grillwork and the period antiques took us a step back in time. The stunning hand painted ceilings, faux mabre and faux bois were featured throughout the home. A tour of the Garden District featured stops at the home of mystery writer, Ann Rice, and the mansions were breathtaking in architectural design.

Another ride the rally-goes could take was a scenic ride across the Causeway; the longest bridge in the United States, and you could end your ride at The Dock for a N’awlins lunch featuring jambalaya, gumbo, Po’ Boy and Muffaletta sandwiches.

After getting lost several times, we thought the city was somewhat difficult to get around in due to lack of interstate and highway signs, but we managed to find our way. Getting there is quite a haul, 15-18 hours from Kansas City, but it is well worth the trip for the fantastic weather, superb cuisine and great entertainment.

Congrats to Scooter Promotions, L.L.C. for a successful 7th Annual Steel Pony Express Rally.

Story by Goldie Arnold

Photos by Goldie Arnold and Mike Schweder