LACONIA, N.H. (CBS) – Every summer hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts set their sites on Laconia, New Hampshire for the tradition known as Bike Week. This year the bikes rolled into the Lakes Region two months later than normal, to a rally with a much different look and feel.
“It’s certainly been different. That’s for sure, but it’s also been really good,” Motorcycle Week deputy director Jennifer Anderson said.
“The city of Laconia took a lot of measures to really discourage crowds,” she added. “There’s not the normal amount of vendors that you would see… There’s no center line motorcycle parking, which is somewhere people normally gather to check out the bikes.”
The crowds at the nation’s oldest motorcycle rally are certainly much thinner this year, but organizers say they’re okay with that.
“It’s really more important to us to make sure that our visitors and our residents understand that our first priority is on safety,” Anderson said.
There are pandemic precautions in place like hand washing and hand sanitizing stations. They are also encouraging mask wearing and social distancing.
John Olson, has been coming to Bike Week since 1976. “It’s dead, but I didn’t care,” he said. “I keep my mask with me and if people look uneasy I put it on.”
Everybody is looking to prevent what happened at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota earlier this month. More than 100 cases of coronavirus have been linked to that 10-day gathering, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country.
“The Sturgis rally is very different than the Laconia rally,” Anderson stressed. “South Dakota had no restrictions or mandates at all.”
In an average year, a couple hundred thousand people come to New Hampshire over the nine days of the event, Anderson said, generating more than $100 million in revenue.
But high attendance is not the goal at this year’s 97th Laconia Motorcycle Week, which runs through Sunday, August 30.
“We want to make sure that next year everyone can come back, and that we can continue to celebrate and countdown to the 100th anniversary.”