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Brand new Laconia Fest brings the party to Bike Week

  • —JENNIFER MELI

  • —JENNIFER MELI

  • Josh Todd of Buckcherry performs at the Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary celebration, on Friday, August 30, 2013 in Milwaukee, WI. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision for Invision/AP)

  • Singer Steven Tyler performs before the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015, in Bristol, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

  • Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust performs at Rock on the Range on Sunday, May 19, 2013 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP Photo)

  • In this Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 photo, Bret Michaels performs at Mavericks at the Landing in Jacksonville, Fla. The former Poison frontman Michaels made a return to the stage, just one week after a string of six hospital visits and kidney surgery. The show was a kind of tuneup and test run for a charity concert that Michaels, 51, is set to do Friday night in Fort Myers, Fla., according to Janna Elias, vice president of operations for Bret Michaels Entertainment. (Photo by John Davisson/Invision/AP)

  • FILE - This Aug. 16, 2013 file photo shows Ted Nugent performing at Rams Head Live in Baltimore. The 65-year-old Michigan rocker and staunch firearms and hunting advocate had one of the top-20 concert tours during various weeks this year while on the road with Styx and REO Speedwagon. He is promoting his his new live CD and DVD set recorded in 2011. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP, File)

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    Lead singer Jared Weeks and Saving Abel perform during "A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE" at the Nokia Theater Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

  • Sebastian Bach, formerly of the rock band Skid Row, performs solo during the M3 Rock Fest at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Columbia, Md. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)

Monitor staff
Published: 6/8/2016 11:07:13 PM

‘I’ve been coming to Bike Week for 25 years,” Izzy Brake said. “But this year is going to be bigger than anything I’ve ever seen.

“This is going to be the biggest thing Laconia’s ever seen.”

For the first time, the city’s annual Motorcycle Week comes with a new twist: nine days of nonstop music.

The inaugural Laconiafest will run from June 11 to 19 and feature more than 100 bands and artists, in addition to a slew of other attractions – including a laser show, a paintball shooting gallery and freestyle motocross exhibits.

Brake, who manages the event’s marketing and digital interactions, described the festival as “one big party” with one big goal: to revive Bike Week.

“It used to take you two hours just to get down to Weirs Beach,” he said. “Lately, in the last few years, you can just drive in. No wait. We’ve seen the decline, and we don’t want to see it die.”

With more than 600 motorcycle rallies across the country nowadays, Todd Ahrend, one of the festival’s producers, said he hopes the new event will give people a reason to come back to Laconia.

“People want to get back to the good ole heyday of Bike Week,” he said. “You’ve got a group of people that love Bike Week and want to see it continue and flourish – not just the town, but also patrons and those who have been coming for years.”

The festival will be held at Weirs Drive-In Theater and boasts a lineup with “a little bit of everything,” Brake said, with the promise of music from noon to midnight.

“If you like it, it’s probably there somewhere,” he said. “We’ve got it all, from heavy metal to country music.”

The setlist, however, is rock heavy, with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, guitarist Ted Nugent and Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach among the week’s headliners.

Brake said Laconiafest hopes to address the two biggest complaints about Bike Week from recent years: that there’s nothing to do and it’s too family-oriented.

“There’s going to be a ton to do,” he said. “And now (the music festival is) a 21 and over event, so no kids.”

Ellefson Music Productions Label Group will sponsor the venue’s second stage, looking for up-and-coming acts to sign. The two stages will stagger their acts, so attendees don’t have to pick and choose between performances.

Tickets can be bought online or on location, although Ahrend recommends buying them on the web to avoid long lines. After getting their tickets scanned and hands stamped, attendees are free to come and go as they please.

Laconia’s Motorcycle Week is the oldest rally in the country, with this year marking the 93rd anniversary, although Brake said unofficial gatherings began as early as 1916. Plans for the event’s 100-year celebration are already in the works.

Brake hopes that in 100 years, people will celebrate the music festival’s centennial along with the 200th anniversary of Bike Week.

“This isn’t just a one-year thing, this is something we’re all committed to,” he said. “Not only do we want to see the event catch on and continue, we want to see it grow Bike Week and bring people back to the area.”

A biker himself, Brake described the week as “a celebration of the lifestyle.”

“When you’re a biker, there’s very strong camaraderie across all lines,” he said. “This is a celebration of that bond.”

The festival has a capacity of more than 30,000 people each day, with the potential for a quarter million attendees over the course of nine days.

For the small city on the lake, the event promises to bring back action and excitement.

“What happens at Bike Week, stays at Bike Week,” Brake said with a laugh.

(Katie Galioto can be reached at 369-3302, kgalioto@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @katiegalioto.)




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