Rally on the River a big hit

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 14, 2004

"Its fantastic," Friends of Ironton member Dave Wells said Saturday afternoon as he watched motorcycle after motorcycle pour into the old Ironton Iron parking lot. "This is a little more than what we expected for the first year."

The first-ever Rally on the River, sponsored by the Friends of Ironton and several local businesses, began Friday and ended Sunday. Unofficial estimates put the crowd at anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 participants.

The rally brought in bikers from all over the region.

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"We had one person here last night who was from Pennsylvania," Friends of Ironton member Jodi Rowe-Collins said Saturday morning as she helped people sign up for that day's poker run. "We've had a good mix of people, no trouble. The entertainment has been good. I think we're getting a lot of positive feedback and publicity for our town."

In spite of the size of the crowd, authorities said the problems associated with the rally were limited to traffic tieups. "We've had no trouble, everything has been calm, everyone has been cooperative," Ironton police officer Beth Rist said.

"There's been increased traffic, which we like," officer Pam Neal Wagner said. "We've got them from ages eight to 80."

Having fun

Debbie Manley of Portsmouth may have romantic memories of the Rally on the River. She came with with veteran biker Tim Skaggs, of Columbus. This was their first date - a blind date, no less.

"He said, 'would you like to go on a ride with me,' and I said 'yes,'" Manley said. For Skaggs, this rally was also an opportunity to spread the word about Bikers For Christ, an organization he joined six months ago. Forty-seven members of the Portsmouth chapter of the Bikers for Christ club took part in the Saturday run.

"Every once in a while I get to testify to people and every once in a while someone does change their life," Skaggs said. Skaggs said he has been riding bikes most of his life. What is it about motorcycles that entices him to the road? "Freedom," he said. "The wind in your face, no restrictions."

Bikers for Christ has a morning worship service today at the Laidback bar in Hanging Rock.

For Adam Crown of Ironton, Friday night's run was a winning experience- literally. Crown won the $100 poke run prize. "It's been pretty good, pretty interesting," Crown said.

Sharry Smith and her husband Richard of Ironton, ride frequently. "We just like to go on poker runs," Sharry Smith said. "We do it quite a bit."

For Tony Keaton, of Chillicothe, this was a chance to hang out with some friends for the weekend. "I just came with a couple of buddies, " he said.

After a ceremony on the courthouse lawn Saturday afternoon, bikers set out for a poker run that took them to Oak Hill and back. Afterward, the bikers

gathered at Frogtown on South Third Street for food and prizes, and at the old Ironton Iron lot to compete for prizes in a series of field events and to chat with others who love to ride.

Five-year-old P.J. Holliday, of Coal Grove, practiced riding his new West Coast Hogs Custom Chopper his dad, Shawn Holliday, bought him earlier in the day.

"He told his dad he didn't want it unless it had a real motor in it," his mom, Deanna Holliday, said.

Asked what he would do with his new toy, P.J. replied "ride it at the house." But P.J. is already thinking of bigger and better toys: he looked wistfully behind him at a full-size bright yellow Suzuki another rally-goer rode in on. Asked if he wanted a big bike, he nodded.

Local residents watched, some in awe, as the bikes rolled down the street.

Jerry Wilson stood in the yard of a friend's house on South Third Street and watched the comings and goings from Frogtown.

"I think it's cool," Wilson said. "I like it."

"I think its great," Bill Vititoe said. "Its good for the bikers, good for the city, good for everyone."

We're in the money

The additional people in town meant empty tables were few and far between at many local restaurants.

"We've been bombed all day long," Frogtown and Peddlers co-owner Darlene Rutledge said as she served hotdogs outside Frogtown Saturday. After the poker run Saturday, people stood five and six deep at a tent outside Frogtown to wait for their turn to get food. "Ironton is finally getting some action. We've had quite a few at Peddler's, too. If anyone needs the business, it's Ironton."

It was the same situation at C.R. Thomas' Old Place on Second Street. "We're packed," manager James Porter said Saturday evening.

"This has helped us out tremendously."

Other business owners said while they are happy to see increased traffic outside, they did not necessarily see increased traffic in their stores. Tim Gearhart, of Tim's News and Novelties, on Third Street, said business was slightly less than normal Friday and he said he thinks it might have been because Third Street was blocked off near his store to accommodate the activities. Still, he said he was pleased to see new faces in town.

"It's been a great event," Gearhart said. "I'm glad they had it. I hope they do it again."

Things to do

Saturday's activities also included a Parade of Heroes from Coal Grove down Third Street, and musical entertainment on a bandstand stage set up near The End Zone. Today's

activities include the church service at the Laidback,

a motorcycle show at the old Ironton Iron lot, and a party on the patio at the Laidback.

Money raised at the Rally on the River will support local community projects. The Friends have already bought and put up street signs, donated bullet-resistant vests for police and more.