LACONIA (CBS) – New Hampshire businesses are gearing up for the 89th annual Laconia Motorcycle Week, which will jump-start their summer tourism season.
About 300,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from across the country and Canada are expected to flock to the Granite State for the nine-day event set to begin June 9, according to the Lakes Region Tourism Association. The festival will feature live music, shows and contests.
“This is really the largest event that draws people to the state of New Hampshire,” said Amy Landers, the association’s executive director.
She said hundreds of businesses are counting on the crowd to drive revenues.
“Hotels and restaurants have the biggest impact but retailers, gas stations, grocery stores and many other benefits as well,” she said in a statement.
Tom Boucher, the co-owner of New Hampshire restaurants T-Bones and Cactus Jack’s, said his locations see a spike in revenue during bike week — an increase of at least 30 percent at this Laconia restaurant.
To handle the extra business, Boucher said he often sends employees from less busy locations to pick-up more hours in Laconia during that week.
“Bike week is our busiest week of the year,” he said.
Meanwhile, 160 vendor licenses had been filed with the Laconia Licensing Clerk’s office for motorcycle week, as of Friday morning. The office said more are expected.
Centered at Lake Winnipesaukee, bike week events are also held throughout the state, allowing motorcyclists to embark on scenic drives from the seacoast into the White Mountains.
Bike week events will kick off Saturday with the sixth annual Peter Makris Memorial Run, a daylong fundraiser for the Easter Seals New Hampshire Veterans Count Program and the Laconia Fire Department’s Life Saving Fund and Water Rescue Unit.
Makris, a lifelong motorcycle club member and an integral part of the Laconia event, was the owner of the Naswa Resort near Weirs Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee.
His daughter, Cynthia Makris, the owner of Naswa Resort and president of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said the memorial run is just one of many charity-oriented events that will happen during the week.
“Bikers are just generous by nature for charities,” she said, adding that in the past five years the memorial run has raised thousands of dollars, enough to fully fund three of the fire department’s rescue boats and dive team.
Aside from charity donations, Makris said motorcyclists pump an average of $200 million into New Hampshire’s economy during the event.
She said her 77-year-old, family-owned resort, receives 10 percent of its seasonal income from bike week. Because of this, Makris said, the resort hires about 50 additional employees during this time.
“Hoteliers experience a great boost in business” during bike week, she said.
Dave Doyle, the co-owner of Sun Valley Cottages in Weirs Beach and a self-proclaimed biker, said he expects his lodgings to have little vacancy during bike week.
Doyle echoed Makris’ assertion that the weeklong event is the region’s biggest economic driver.
“A lot of things happen around here all through the year, but bike week is the crown jewel,” he said.
Laconia Motorcycle Week is regarded as the oldest event of its kind in the United States, with popular bike weeks in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Sturgis, S.D., in their 71st and 72nd years respectively.
Ken Croney, who traveled with 10 others from Toronto to his fifth motorcycle week in Laconia, said he continues to return to the event due to the large sense of camaraderie.
“I get to spend time with my buddies,” he said, adding that he has maintained friendships with bikers he has met at previous motorcycle rallies.
With thousands expected at bike week, Laconia Police Captain Matt Canfield said his department will increase police presence and traffic enforcement efforts, as it has in the past.
“I’m hopeful that with extra enforcement we will prevent any fatalities. That’s our goal,” he said, adding that last year was the first in many where there were no deaths during the event.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.