An anything-goes attitude is the prevailing mantra of the Harley Rendezvous Classic 2011, which started on Friday and runs almost nonstop until Sunday in the hamlet of Mariaville.
Propped against her motorcycle on Friday evening, Schenectady resident Heather Vanwagner said the three-day experience at the Indian Lookout Country Club was: “Freedom. That sums it all up,” she said. “Whatever you want to do.”
This spirit was embodied in by drunkenness, frequent catcalls and one woman who insisted on whipping male passersby.
The lack of constraint took a political bent for event organizer Frank Potter, who also owns the property. Potter said he took over from his friend Kemp O’Connell after he died of cancer, with the intent to let people be free, but without violence. The gathering is essentially celebrating the core principles of America, Potter argued, noting that riders recognize the efforts of soldiers and believe strongly in the Bill of Rights.
He also stressed that the Harley Rendezvous is just ordinary people having fun. “Through the years most people realize that we are their brothers, their sisters, their fathers, their grandfathers and they come to recognize … that some of us might look a little burly or out of place, but we’re all the same,” Potter said.
With recent wet weather the event was very muddy. This didn’t stop people from navigating on motorcycles through crowds, easier than walking the 200-acre property.
The stereotypical biker outfits of jeans and leather were almost nonexistent, with most people taking advantage of the warm weather, which included chaps, Daisy Duke shorts and many shirtless people, men and women.
In some ways a family event, the Rendezvous offered food vendors and live music. But it was most definitely a refuge for a mature crowd, with blow-up dolls on display, alcohol readily available and sexual tension high.
The adult themes of the Harley Rendezvous are the yearly source of relief for Vermont letter carrier Eileen Blaney, who said this is her chance to stop being a wife, a mother and a homeowner for a while. “I get to be who I am,” she said, in high spirits and topless but for beads.
One of the highlights of the event, according to Massachusetts residents Paul Milluzzo and Mark Riel, was the Jello shots they would be handing out from their temporary bar. This was their sixth year, said Milluzzo, who boasted that they arrived before everyone else to secure a heavily trafficked spot. Beads, alcohol and a loudspeaker system were just part of the draw, with neon lights on the bar helping them stand out at night. “It draws them in like moths,” Milluzzo said.
The event has become a family affair for Codi and Philip Conklin of Kerhonkson, as the son and father also celebrated their birthdays here. Codi turned 23 on Wednesday and Philip will be 58 on Sunday.
“A lot of nice people come … rain or shine,” Philip said. “Whatever you want to see … lots of cool people, lots of people doing strange things.”
One of those peculiar things that Philip highlighted was a six-person bike that had the people pedaling around a large circle with a pantless man standing on top.
He added that it was a misconception about the event that everyone in attendance had their own motorcycle, as he estimated that about 60 percent of the crowd owned one.
For Codi, the whole environment made for the best way to belatedly celebrate his birthday. “What party can you go to?” he wondered. “You got all the people in the world to talk to and have a good time with.”
To learn more about the Harley Rendezvous — including rule number three: no weapons — go to http://www.harleyrendezvous.com/.