Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

19th Annual Ralph Wayne's Backyard Nationals - Kansas City, Missouri

Written by  November 30, 2011

What do you get when you cross a block party with an antique motorcycle show? The answer could only be Ralph Wayne’s Backyard Nationals, a unique annual event that transforms a normally quiet neighborhood into an amazing motorcycle showcase that attracts enthusiasts from all around the Kansas City area and far beyond. Having grown from humble beginnings as a gathering of a few of Ralph Wayne Blackmore’s motorcycling friends, the event draws thousands of motorcyclists who park their rides on streets that are temporarily limited to motorcycle traffic only. For this bike show, there is no exhibition hall. Instead, about 40 motorcycles are parked under a tent provided every year by the Armfield Tent Rental Company, and another 30 or so are displayed beside the tent in Ralph’s large back yard. When backyard space reaches its capacity, the street in front of the tent also becomes a display area.

This bike show has no judges. There are no classes and no first, second, and third places. There is no award for Best in Show. Instead, Ralph considers all of the bikes to be winners and awards a blue ribbon to each one that is at least 25 years old until the ribbon supply is exhausted. If there were judges, their job would be a tough one. The only Kansas City area show that comes close to Ralph’s when it comes to the number and quality rare antique bikes is Heart of America Motorcycle Enthusiasts (HoAME) show. The variety of bikes, trikes, and scooters entered is incredible. Some are original, some are restored, and some customized. There are street bikes, trail bikes, and racing bikes of all ages and brands. A few of the bikes on display this year were nearly a century old. Sam Dakin’s Sportster-powered Bonneville Salt Flats streamliner attracted plenty of attention under the tent. In addition to viewing the show bikes, it is always worthwhile to spend some time touring the streets in all directions from Ralph’s residence. There are always plenty of show-quality bikes that have been ridden in by enthusiasts attending the show.

Editor Mike and I arrived in time to park close to the display area, and his Detroit Bobber attracted its share of attention. My 1990 Harley-Davidson Heritage was like a spring chicken compared to most of the bikes parked nearby. It wasn’t long before the whole area was packed with people and motorcycles. The line for souvenirs kept growing until it stretched across the yard and at least a half-block down the street. As we circulated through the crowd, we began hearing rumors that this would be the last year for the show. We were wondering whether or not this was true. Ralph and his core group of volunteers are not as young as they used to be, and most people don’t realize what a monumental task it is to put on an event of this magnitude. We have it on good authority that Ralph has been persuaded to host at least one more show to make it an even 20.

Thanks to generous sponsors and donations made by those attending the show, food and beverages are provided every year at no charge. This year, volunteers served about 3,000 hot dogs along with beans, coleslaw, potato salad, and macaroni salad. Thirsty attendees went through 28 kegs of beer.

Ralph, his volunteer staff, the sponsors, the neighbors, and the exhibitors all deserve a huge THANK YOU. The tradition of Ralph Wayne’s Backyard Nationals is unique, and we would be thrilled to see it continue. As the first Saturday of October, 2012, approaches we hope to have the 20th annual show listed on the Cycle Connections events calendar. Circle the date and stay tuned for more information.

Article and photos by Stripe