Erie, Pa., July 13–17—The challenges of holding a major motorcycle rally inside your city limits are many. But it’s a challenge that Erie, Pennsylvania, has been up to for 10 consecutive years. Bikers are, and enjoy being perceived as, a little different than the average citizen but this rally balances the interest of the community and the rally goer pretty well.
Roar’s 10th year was unique. Several less traditional forms of rally entertainment were highlighted this year including master chainsaw wood sculptor Brian Sprague who wielded various chainsaws against hardwood and in the process created some admirable art work, including an eagle. I say less traditional entertainment even though I also saw chainsaw sculptors down the road in Johnstown earlier this summer, so maybe chainsaw sculpting is the hot ticket this year.
Also new and unique was the first Rumble at the Roar boxing event held Saturday. Eight bouts were held in the area of the Rocket 101 Beer Garden on Saturday afternoon. The boxing venue also hosted special guest former lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, a native of nearby Youngstown, Ohio. Boom Boom was on hand to meet and greet fans as well as to present a special lifetime achievement award to Erie boxing legend Lou Bizzaro Sr. Bizzaro is perhaps best remembered as a fighter for a gutsy, unsuccessful title bout with defending lightweight champ Roberto Duran. Bizzaro was knocked out in the 14th round of that fight. Meeting Boom Boom was great for many including myself. We are nearly the same age and I used to see him doing roadwork around Youngstown back in the day.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Roar kicked off on Wednesday with a ride. The event boasts 10 organized benefit rides beginning with the Fallen Riders Memorial Run. Donation was $20 per bike with proceeds benefitting the Erie Chapter of the Fallen Riders Memorial Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization whose admirable goal is to be able to offer financial assistance and comfort to families of all riders lost in the county. Following the Fallen Riders run, headliner Jackyl took to the mainstage and played a free concert to a town square packed with bikers and local residents.
The pace picked up on Thursday, beginning with the Faith and Freedom Ride. The donation was $20 per bike and the ride featured stops at the Erie Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home for a tour. All active duty riders could participate in this one at no charge. The ride included a special ceremony, presentation of colors and the singing of the National Anthem.
Roar’s signature event has to be Thursday’s Bringin’ in the Roar Parade. Donation is $20 per bike which included an American flag sponsored by Erie Insurance and Annin Flagmakers, the country’s oldest and largest flag maker. The ride assembled at Presque Isle Downs and Casino and featured Grand Marshal Paul Teutel Jr. leading the pack. There was a pre-ride concert, a bike blessing and the bikes of Paul Jr. were on display before the parade began.
There were literally thousands of bikes in the parade, estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000, and throngs of local residence enjoyed lining the route and supporting the parade. Many of the spectators were also waving American flags as over 20,000 flags were given away during the rally! As they arrived in downtown Erie, riders were greeted with Old Glory, a 30’ x 60’ American flag courtesy of the Erie County Chapter of the National Flag Foundation. The flag was suspended between the aerial ladder trucks of the Erie and Millcreek Fire Departments near the intersection of State and Tenth Streets. The rally was dedicated to American patriotism and the celebration of our flag couldn’t have made for a better connection to that pride. Many riders were almost childlike and in awe, looking up as they passed beneath Old Glory. It truly was spectacular. The crowd filled Perry Square as rally goers and townspeople alike awaited the free performance by Vince Neil, the voice of Motley Crue. The concert was well attended and loud!
Friday featured three fundraising rides. I chose the Covered Bridges of Ashtabula County Ride in nearby Ohio. This self-guided ride assembled at event sponsor Off-Road Express, travelled to five scenic covered bridges and finished up with a pig roast at The Cab. The donation was $20 per rider and I logged over 100 miles on this one. The Roar to the Microbrews Dice Run featured six Erie microbreweries, beer tasting, tours and prizes. A bonus stop was Street Track n’ Trail for a chance at a $200 gift card. This ride was also a $20 donation per player the day of event. Rounding out the day’s rides was the popular Thunder on the Isle Mayor’s Ride, a scenic ride through Presque Isle led by Erie’s Mayor Joe Sinnott. This ride was a $20 per bike donation and hundreds of bikes participate each year. The ride finishes at The Hub, a.k.a. Perry Square, in time for the evening’s headliner, Vixen.
If you had the energy, Saturday featured four rides. The Roar to the Vineyards Poker Run featured six award-winning regional wineries, and prizes just like a normal poker run. It also featured wine tasting, a scenic ride through regional wine country and winery tours for a donation of $20 per hand. If your taste ran more toward beer than wine, you would have no doubt enjoyed the Beer for the Deer Legend Ride. This ride visits nearby New York State and featured a half-chicken barbeque and live bluegrass music at the Pine Junction Tavern. For a $20 donation per rider, this one seems like a deal.
The Off-Road Express Rocket Ride was a new ride this year. For a $10 donation riders were treated to live music, sales at Off-Road Express a $10 gift card and giveaways, the quintessential “win-win.” Finally there was the Hometown Taste and Tour featuring Erie’s famous Smith’s hot dog to start. Then you had to choose the East or West option depending on which suited your taste. East featured stops at Forgurtz Yogurt, Nunzi’z Place, Bootleggers Bar & Grill, Jack Frost Donuts and Lawrence Park Diner.West featured Sarafini’s Restaurant, Jim & Sue’s Lake City Pizza, Heartland Inn & Café, Chico’s Family Dining and Connie’s Ice Cream. This was also a poker run with cash prizes. Donation was $20 per player.
Pre-registration for all rides by July 5 saved you $5 and as for where the money goes, well, that’s part of the beauty of this entire event. Each year the Manufacture and Business Association that organizes the rally selects a local charity of choice to be the beneficiary of the proceeds. This year, all proceeds, except for the Fallen Riders Memorial Run, went to support the St. Martin Center New Playground Project. So, the town gets a great rally that brings in thousands of patrons in the form of rally goers eating, drinking, sleeping and generally stimulating the local economy and funding worthwhile charities, the attendees get a great rally and the satisfaction of knowing their money is supporting a worthy cause and Erie enjoys the attention in general.
Saturday finished up to the sounds of Quiet Riot and again the streets were packed, but the rally also featured the best of local entertainment throughout the week including several RockErie Music Awards winners who performed on Perry Square’s new and permanent Showcase Stage in West Park. The music could all be enjoyed for free or you could upgrade for better viewing of the headliners for just $10 in the Rocket 101 Beer Garden area. The over-21 beer garden also featured beer specials. Boxing was subject to a different pricing structure—$30 general admission and $65 for ringside.
The rally also had opportunities to take demo rides on Indian and Victory Motorcycles throughout the event. I’d have liked to have ridden the all-electric Empulse TT by Victory, but couldn’t fit it into my schedule.
Tyler Mutton, Ryan Yarington and Laura Rocco each won a new Harley, Indian and Kawasaki, respectively. The bikes were donated for the fundraising raffle which cost $20 per chance by sponsors Street Track N Trail, Indian Motorcycle of Erie and Off-Road Express.
Everything you could want in a rally is here—vendors, great riding for free or for charity, live music, and a welcoming community. Next year’s Roar is scheduled for July 12–16. 4