Despite crash fatalities and burnouts, an atmosphere of joy and gratitude at Motorcycle Week 2022

  • Thousands of bikers from across the country converged on Weirs Beach for the 99th Laconia Motorcycle Week. Jon Decker / Laconia Daily Sun

  • Crowds swarm the Weirs to watch a hill climb contest during the 99th Motorcycle Week. Jon Decker / Laconia Daily Sun

The Laconia Daily Sun
Published: 6/21/2022 12:46:25 PM
Modified: 6/21/2022 12:46:05 PM

As the first Motorcycle Week in two years unimpeded by the coronavirus, the tone for the 99th Laconia Motorcycle Rally was set by joy and gratitude among attendees and enthusiastic attendance at all events, according to organizers.

“This was a very strong year,” said Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. He said chilly weekend weather put a damper on the closing days, but overall spirits were high.

“I’m very happy about the genuine positive attitude of the attendees that I talked to,” said Mayor Andrew Hosmer. “I think people’s desire to get out had been impeded by COVID, and everyone, especially those I talked to from Canada, was thrilled to be back out and enjoying the beauty of our region.”

“I think everyone has a new appreciation for being able to do all the things they want to do,” said Jennifer Anderson, assistant executive director of Motorcycle Week. “The general mood was very positive, very happy.”

Cynthia Makris, president of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association board and owner of the Naswa Resort on Weirs Boulevard, also said that Canadian visitors had expressed particular enthusiasm to be back. Makris said there were also a noticeable amount of new faces and that many of these first-time visitors — like most attendees who stayed at the Naswa this year — had already rebooked their rooms for next year.

“Overall, I think the people here were very joyful, very grateful,” Makris said.

With this resurgence, though, came an increase in motorcycle accident-related fatalities. After last year saw atypically low numbers of arrests and accidents — including zero fatalities — this year’s Motorcycle Week has seen five deaths in motorcycle accidents statewide, with one crash victim still in critical condition. Laconia Police Chief Matthew Canfield told WMUR that there were more motorcycle crash fatalities at this year’s Motorcycle Week than any year he knows of since he joined LPD 26 years ago.

“The hardest part of any given year is when there’s accidents, fatalities, any injury really,” said Anderson.

“It’s sobering,” Hosmer said of the loss of life during the week. “But I’m very proud of Laconia’s first responders for the way they carry out their work in a professional way, especially responding to such tragic scenes.”

“Each accident had its own story — which could have been prevented,” Makris said. “People need to watch out for motorcycles and riders need to be more careful.” Makris also noted that serious accidents causing road closures can affect businesses as well: a deadly crash that forced the closure of Weirs Boulevard on Thursday took place during the Naswa’s annual tattoo contest, preventing many from attending.

St. Clair commended Laconia police not only for their handling of accidents but also for their patience with attendees who participated in road stunts and burnouts, something St. Clair said was more of an issue this year than previous years.

St. Clair also said he believed most of the burnouts, citing one in particular taking place on the evening of June 19, were led by locals. For him this was both “disheartening” and “a real disappointment” and he characterized issues with overly loud bikes, burnouts and stunts as “amateur behavior.”

Anderson said last year she had noticed, and this year really been struck by, the start of a generational changeover in crowds: older riders attached to the history of the event are aging out and younger riders, with interests in different genres of motorcycling, have an increasingly strong presence. This switch can be seen in the types of bikes: younger riders are into off-roading bikes, cafe cruisers, and racing motorcycles, while older riders prefer comfort and cruising.

This year, Harley Davidson premiered a new line of adventure touring motorcycles, built for on- and off-road riding alike, and an electric Harley that retains the signature, traditional sound. Both, Anderson said, are very popular among young riders.

“I saw far more riders in their twenties than ever before,” she said. “There was a different energy — that I saw at Daytona as well. People aren’t stuck in the same ole same ole and I think that’s really great.”

“All rallies will depend on having motorcycle enthusiasts who like to ride into their older years,” Makris said. “But I also hope younger people get into the sport of riding because New Hampshire roads have so much to offer.”

“It’s a competitive environment out there for people’s time and discretionary dollars right now,” said Hosmer. “And a lot of the people who traditionally come to Motorcycle Week are aging out, but I think Charlie and his entire team are adapting accordingly.”

Rally organizers expect the 100th anniversary next year to host an array of unique programming and larger-than-usual crowds.

St. Clair and Anderson both said the organizing team is confident that it will be highly attended and are already looking for potential hosts for events.

The approaching one-century milestone prompts reflection about how the event has adapted throughout its many years and how it will continue to evolve in years to come.

Laconia’s 100th rally is the first of its kind and, as the oldest rally, Laconia is a leader for what the future of motorcycle rallies will look like, Anderson said. St. Clair noted that this year’s events were already abuzz with excitement for next year.

“That’s the start of a new century for Motorcycle Week,” Anderson said, “and no one knows how interests might change or what events will be in the future.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.


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