Great Canadian Bike Rally gearing up for 2012

By Marissa Baecker

In certain parts of the Province, riders are preparing their bikes for winter hibernation while others are intent to continue riding through to the new year but a select group of riders in Merritt are busy organizing the second annual Great Canadian Bike Rally and as this year’s riding season in Merritt winds down, the GCBR crew hard at work to make the July 12 – 15, 2012 event even better.

“It [2011] was a first time event and we spent the whole year getting people to buy into the concept of having a motorcycle rally” says Mike Fairfield, Great Canadian Bike Rally event coordinator. “There was a lot of planning involved with the City, with the local businesses and probably the first half of the year was spent planning.”

Getting support from the City is key to the success of any event and with municipal elections coming up in November we questioned whether continued support could shift in the event musical chairs is played in the Council chambers.

“Honestly, I know the people running for Council,” continued Fairfield, “and if there are any changes, I am confident that those that are coming on board will be in support of what we are doing. Those that are being re-elected, it was unanimous support from the City [2011] so we don’t’ see that as a concern at all.”

The event begins with opening ceremonies and a parade of flags led by Veterans Canada. The inaugural event saw the Merritt Mayor and local MP’s riding through town to the main stage. Taking into consideration the travel distances of those coming to the event, the parade in 2012 will take place later in the day as opposed to first thing in the morning.

One of the biggest draws aside from the motorcycles is the weekend long line-up of live music.

“The event is really two events in one,” says Fairfield. “You can register for the rally and take part in all kinds of activities within the community and then the entertainment we kept separate. There are some people, like the locals, that are not necessarily interested in the riding type of activities but would like to take part in the music events.”

There is no shortage of events. Registered riders can take part in a Poker Run, Super Moto races, bike games, dice runs, a show n shine and so on.

On the entertainment side of things, Fairfield says the rally aims to provide a line-up of about 25 bands and as many Canadian acts as possible. There will be a selection of bands returning to the event for 2012 due to inclement weather keeping them from the stage in 2011.

“On the Saturday night we had a crazy rainstorm which meant that some of the artists were not able to perform,” recalls Fairfield, “so some of those artists will be coming back.”

When prodded for insider information regarding the 2012 lineup Fairfield laughs, “I wish I could tell you. We will have all new headliners this year but I can’t tell you who.”

Who would want to ruin the surprise? Organizers were greeted with a pleasant surprise themselves for the inaugural event. Rider turnout the first year was anticipated between 3 and 5,000 riders. Taking into consideration that it was the first time the event was being held and the fact that there was another motorcycle event a short ride away on the same weekend, organizers had a smile on their faces when numbers in Merritt ended up close to 5,000 riders.

“Our thought in having another motorcycle rally in close proximity was actually a good thing,” states Fairfield. “You are going to have a lot of people checking out both events. One of the greatest things about this type of event is the riding.”

For July 2012, riders choosing to take in the Great Canadian Bike Rally in Merritt will be in for an extended vacation as Sturgis North is posted online to begin the day Merritt wraps up.

With those kind of numbers, pairing with a charitable organization was only logical.

“That is the biggest point of the whole thing,” says Fairfield. “We have done it as a non-profit organization and for the purpose of bringing people to our community to raise money for the kids.

Two children’s charities have been chosen as recipients. A broadly recognized cause that benefits the entire province – the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation currently fundraising for a new facility – and the other is Circle Square Ranch currently considering building a new kids camp in the Merritt area so it was an obvious choice.

As for sponsorship support, Fairfield says, “When they realize that we are community driven and the purpose is to raise money for the kids, we get a favourable response but a lot of the larger sponsors have said [regarding the 2011 event] that ‘we love what you guys are doing but we rarely put a dime into first time events – so first year was tough but I am happy with everything.”

What would a weekend event be without vendors and in this case a street mall? Adding to that, and with the popularity of ‘Toy Hauler’ style recreation vehicles, an RV expo in the central park in downtown Merritt.

“We have basically organized the entire downtown for this event. Three of the main streets downtown, which run adjacent to the main stage area, are all set up for vendors on both sides of the street,” says Fairfield. “[In 2011] We actually had an empty retail store that was occupied by both Kamloops and Chilliwack Harley-Davidson as a temporary dealership.”

Expansion of the Street Mall is planned for 2012 and early bird applications are already being accepted.

This year’s event is being held Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15, 2012 with Wednesday, July 11 reserved for set up. Camping is also offered and reservations are recommended.

Tickets and registration is available online – visit www.greatcanadianbikerally.com.

We suggest checking the website regularly for updates with respect to entertainment announcements and volunteer opportunities.

 

 

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