The first of tens of thousands of visitors will roll into Lake George this weekend for the 34th annual Americade touring rally.
The five-day event, which begins Tuesday, attracts people from all walks of life. But for that week they are not doctors or lawyers, police officers or firefighters.
They are bikers.
• Guided and Unguided Rides (Tuesday-Friday)
• Americade Expo (9 a.m.-6 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, June 7-11)
• Support the Troops Cruise (6-8 p.m., Tuesday, June 7)
• Pro-Rodeo & BBQ (BBQ at 6 p.m., rodeo at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 8)
• Beatles Boat Cruise (7-9 p.m., Wednesday, June 8)
• Comedy Show (8-9 p.m., Wednesday, June 8, Thursday, June 9, and Saturday, June 11)
• Beach Party (6-8 p.m., Thursday, June 9)
• Festival of Lights (9:30 p.m., Thursday, June 9)
• Friday Night Spectacular (6 p.m., Friday, June 10)
• Americade Parade along Canada Street (10 a.m. Saturday, June 11)
• Americade Concert Series featuring Craig Morgan (Saturday, June 11, gates open 5:30, show at 6:30)
These bikers are not coming to town to raise a ruckus. They are mostly tourers who enjoy riding their motorcycles as a hobby. Manufacturers like Honda, not Harleys, make the majority of bikes roaming the streets. Christian Dutcher, the event’s vice president, actually rides a relatively nondescript road bike called a Triumph Tiger.
Dutcher has been around the event since it began in 1983 out of his father Bill’s vision. The younger Dutcher has always worked the event. First working as a greeter and information distributor, he was trained to take over the event one day. In 2014 he did, but the excitement he experienced from tourists arriving has not changed.
“You’ll see those same smiles and looks on people’s faces when they arrive today,” he said. “They look forward to this event for months, maybe even the entire year. It was exciting then, and it’s exciting now to see the expectation and enjoyment on people’s faces when they arrive.”
Americade is the world’s largest multi-brand motorcycle touring rally. It draws visitors to Lake George from all around the globe. Among the events annually are guided tours through the Adirondacks and Vermont’s Green Mountains, as well as a trade show with over 200 vendors, demonstrations and displays, stunt shows and catered boat tours.
When Bill Dutcher originally brought the idea to Lake George Mayor Robert Blais in the early 1980s, there was apprehension in the community about bikers taking over. But, in fact, the event is a gift to a tourist town during the lull between Memorial Day and the end of school, according to Blais. Many riders end up returning at other points in the year with their families.
“I’ll see a guy walking down the street and he’ll say, ‘Hey Mayor Blais, don’t you remember me from Americade?’ ” Blais said. “He’s dressed differently. He’s got three children with him and his wife and he’s driving a motor vehicle.”
The familiar faces of returning riders is Blais’ favorite part of the event. The village’s mayor since 1971, he said riders enjoy the camaraderie of renewing relationships with other Americaders as well.
Owners of local lodging know the attendees that come to them each year for the Americade because groups tend to stay at the same places each June. Some riders take more time off and arrive in the village the weekend before the event starts in order to spend time in the area before the big crowds arrive on the weekend that concludes the official festivities.
The crowds have only grown over the years, so the early exit of the old-timers by Thursday leaves more rooms for visitors that arrive later in the week. Blais said Americade week is definitely the village’s biggest week economically.
In addition to accommodations, tourists spend money at the area’s many places to dine. Linda Duffy, manager of Duffy’s Tavern, notices an impact on local eateries each year.
“You’ve got Americade and you pay some bills ahead of time. You give yourself a cushion,” she said. “Some people I know lease their businesses or property. After Americade, they’ve paid their lease sometimes right up through the summer.”
According to the executive director of the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, the estimated effect on the region by Americade annually ranges from $32 million to $37 million. According to the Chamber, visitors will stay in hotels, motels and resorts within 30 minutes of Lake George in all directions for the event. Their visits will range from a few days to a full week.
No matter how long people stay, the goal of Christian Dutcher and his staff is to represent the best of motorcycling and put on a rally that everyone enjoys.
Each year, the schedule includes a number of guided-tour rides. Among Dutcher’s favorites is one that takes bikers to the top of Whiteface Mountain. He also enjoys the rides that enter Vermont and go through covered bridges, along with the annual parade in Lake George on Saturday morning.
Each year, the staff adds new things to the six-day schedule. New rides are always being unveiled and a concert series was started at the newly opened Charles R. Wood Park in 2015. This year, the concert series is headlined by country music star Craig Morgan. Duffy does not get to many events during Americade week between work and raising her children, but she said she would like to see Morgan’s performances.
Duffy said she appreciates the great job Dutcher and his staff do with the event each June and all the business it attracts. Dutcher said he understands its impact. Each year, he just tries to be a good steward of the Americade.
“It has a lot of history and it’s been done very well,” he said. “It’s completely unique within the country, as far as a motorcycle event. I want to make sure that I continue that tradition of an event that’s very highly regarded.”
The staff is encouraged by the positive feedback it receives after each rally in letters from bikers, who speak of the event as something to look forward to throughout the winter months.
You will see them on the Northway in the days ahead. They will be doctors and lawyers, police officers and firefighters, but not for this ride. Not for this week.