The moment you enter the grounds of the Harley Rendezvous in Mariaville, it’s an assault on the senses.
The sounds of music, laughter and conversation mix with the sound of motorcycle engines. The smells of barbecue, beer and yes, the occasional whiff of marijuana, bombard your nose. You get the sense that this is a place like no other.
Organizer Frank Potter says that the motorcycle rally really is like a family gathering and that every year is like another family reunion for the regular attendants. The gates opened on Wednesday. The rally concludes today.
“It’s a time where we can all sit down and connect with what’s happening. . . . It’s a release,” Potter said.
Potter said this year’s event features 17 bands.
The 177 acres on which the event is hosted annually is owned by Potter. His house sits right in the middle of the grounds. The placement seems to fit Potter’s role. As he walks around the grounds, he could easily pass for a patron, but everyone seems to know him. One man stops him just to shake his hand and thank him for continuing the event.
“It’s like a family for a lot of people,” Potter said.
The family comes from all over the country just to attend. A man from Montreal, known as “Rambo,” said that he has been coming to the Harley Rendezvous for more than 10 years. He said he would never miss one and that it is more than worth the six-hour drive.
“For these guys,” he said, “I would always come.”
Ron Arnold said he had a stroke just one month ago. But that was not going to stop him from missing the event. He has been coming to the rendezvous for 20 years.
The theme of family was echoed by many of those in attendance. Amid the campers, tents and even an old air stream trailer, Dan Deyette sat under a tent watching the goings-on with a can of beer in hand.
A Vietnam veteran, he said that this event reminds him of what he served for while in the Marine Corps.
“This is freedom at its best,” Deyette said.
Jennifer Taylor and Tom Garry walked from tent to tent collecting money for Pam Zicko, a regular at the rendezvous, who was injured at last year’s event. Taylor said that she is back this year, but she has been burdened with over $36,000 in medical bills. Taylor and Garry said that they were trying to help. The jar was almost entirely full.
“It’s not just a party. It really is a family and we take care of each other,” said Garry.
No major problems
No official count is kept of those who attend the event, but it is estimated that 5,000 people attend the event every year. Despite the large numbers, there is not a police officer in sight. Potter said that everyone, along with about a 600 volunteer staff, works to police the event.
“There are no problems here. We police ourselves. We are just here to have a good time,” Deyette said.
Arnold said that in 20 years he has seen the effectiveness of self-policing the event.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I have seen one scrap,” Arnold said.
State police Sgt. Mark Mctague said that in the past three years they have not seen any major problems associated with the event. He said the biggest problem they face is usually traffic. Despite the lack of incidents in recent years, Mctague said that they continue to monitor the area of the event.
“We do have patrols in that area and there is a DWI checkpoint in that area from 4 to 8 p.m.,” Mctague said.
Mctague said the reason for the checkpoint is primarily because of the increase in traffic and not an increase in the number of DWI reports.