Salisbury rally HOG heaven for bikers, Harley-Davidson enthusiasts
By Jessie Burchette
Hundreds of Harley-Davidson owners and enthusiasts gathered on Bendix Drive Thursday evening to kick off the three-day HOG rally here.
Six thousand or more are expected for the 2008 State Harley Owner’s Group Rally, hosted by the Tilley’s Harley Davidson dealership.
Kyle Petty, NASCAR driver and well-known biker and two-time NASCAR champion Ned Jarrett joined the opening ceremonies moments after a large military helicopter arrived, piloted by Max Drye of Salisbury.
Bikers parked their rides in the adjacent Power Curbers parking lot to check out the midway of vendors selling food, seasoning, artwork and assorted bike paraphernalia.
More bikers carried bottles of water than cans of beer as they greeted friends and family and moved along the exhibits and vendors.
Among local companies getting in on the action, Paul Brown and Neal Wilkinson were showing off climate-controlled storage units, perfect to house the Harley and have plenty of space to work.
Brown, head of W.A. Brown & Co., best known for its commercial refrigeration, showed the company’s line of Better Building Products to bike owners, including Petty.
Brown also provided a separate cooler to chill water and wine.
Tommy Moser, head of the 200-strong Salisbury HOGs, was delighted to see the turnout.
A biker for 40 years, he bought a Harley about six years ago and joined the HOGs. “We’re a big family, everything is family oriented.”
Many of those at Tilley’s for the opening Thursday evening were couples with children and grandchildren.
At least one biker carried his friend, a small, pampered pooch in a pouch on his chest.
Hundreds more bikers are expected to arrive today and Saturday.
Moser noted that last year 500 pre-registered for the state event, which ended up with 3,000 attending.
More than 1,800 pre-registered for the Salisbury event with officials now expecting 5,000 to 6,000.
Moser thanked area businesses and merchants for their support.
He pointed to the vendors, who are using the rally to raise money for a variety of causes.
On Saturday morning, 1,800 bikers are signed up to ride down I-85 to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for a few laps around the track. The N.C. Highway Patrol will provide an escort.
Several rides are also planned throughout the county.
Tilley’s, which is hosting the event, offered visitors a chance to look at older bikes housed in the Harley-Davidson traveling museum and dozens of new bikes in the showroom and in a large tent out front.
Randi Whitley, who has worked in sales for four years, watched over the gleaming rides under the tent.
“It’s exciting,” said Whitley, referring to the rally.
Tilley’s will be open extra hours today and Saturday.
County tourism officials have predicted the rally will put $2 million in the local economy as bikers patronize local businesses and services.