Organizers estimating more than 800 bikers to spend three days in Liberal during state rally, first ever in Liberal
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
In early June, the highways of Southwest Kansas will be filled with bikers, as an estimated 800 motorcycle riders make their way to Liberal.
The Seward County community will be home to the Kansas State Harley Owners Group rally June 3 through 5. Pre-registration for the event is closed, but Greg Bird of the Liberal HOG chapter said walk-ins are still welcome.
“Historically, the walk-ins are 100 to 150,” he said. “We could have 800 or so people running around with motorcycles that weekend.”
The Kansas rally is put on annually in communities across the state by Kansas State Rally Inc. Bird said Liberal has been working to get the event here for several years.
“Every year, they meet, and you have to do a proposal,” he said. “We did a proposal. We got turned down for a couple of years, then finally got in the series to do it there. Sally Fuller of Convention and Tourism actually went and did the proposal for us one year. It’s quite a process.”
Bird said members of the local HOG chapter have served on the state committee for some time to figure out what it would take to get a rally in Southwest Kansas, as well as what it would take to put an event together.
“There is a lot of work. There’s a committee of probably seven people, most of them are local with this one,” he said. “We’ve got one from Hutchinson and one from Salina that’s on the committee to help out on the rally.”
Bird said rallies are rotated in various communities around Kansas.
“It can actually rotate anywhere around the state,” he said. “It’s been at Dodge City, and it was at Hays a few years back. This is the first time we’ve had it in Liberal.”
As for some of the events that will take place, there will be a poker run and bike games, and the afternoon of June 5 will feature a parade down Kansas Avenue.
The theme of the rally is the Wide Open West, and packaged rides are available for riders to go to Canadian, Texas, Dodge City and other communities.
“We’ll also have a five state ride, where people can go,” Bird said. “We’ve got a route mapped out where we can hit all five states in one day. The ABCs of Touring is a big thing with HOG. If you get your picture taken next to a state sign, that counts for so many points, and a city counts for points. You can accumulate all these points, and there’s different prizes at different levels. Coming to a state rally gets you extra points.”
There will be live entertainment all three nights on the west side of the Activity Center.
“Part of the area will be for rally participants only, but there’ll be room if anybody else wants to come out, enjoy the music,” Bird said. “It starts at 8 o’clock and runs till 11, mostly rock and roll bands, but it will be a bit of a mix.”
Bird said during the day, the Activity Center will also be home to many vendors.
“A lot of our vendors are going to be motorcycle related,” he said. “Not all of them are. The Kiwanis is having a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning. That’s open to the public.”
All rally participants will receive a Passport to Adventure to collect passport stamps which will be converted for chances at prizes.
Local events for the HOG rally will also take place at Dorothy’s House, Mid-America Air Museum, the Dalton Gang Hideout in Meade and the Stauth Museum in Montezuma.
Bird pointed particularly to events taking place at MAAM.
“They’re going to have helicopter rides going on, and they’re going to videotape the parade,” he said. “That was a good draw. That was what we had to do to promote people coming to Liberal. What do we have? We’ve got Dorothy’s House, Baker Arts, the air museum. There’s just a lot of stuff like that to do to entice people to come.”
Opening ceremonies start at noon on June 3, and closing festivities will take place on the evening of June 5.
“It should help a lot with the hotels, motels and restaurants around town,” Bird said.
The Liberal rally is similar to events in Sturgis, S.D., and Daytona Beach, Fla., though Bird did say the local event will be more family oriented.
“We don’t do the crazy stuff,” he said with a laugh. “They’ll still dress up. They’ll have their dogs dressed up. It’s fun to watch the people, but it won’t be anything like Sturgis or Daytona. I think the average Harley owner is probably in their 50s, but there are some younger people, too.”
Bird estimated for every person that comes to Liberal, this could mean an average of about $100 a day spent in lodging, gas and restaurants.
“It should be quite an economic boost for the weekend,” he said.
There will be riders from 14 different states coming to the Liberal rally.
“The people who do the rallies come from a long way to do the rally,” Bird said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”