• 46°

Crowds rumble into Ironton for Rally on River

&uot;I can’t remember when I wasn’t riding a bike,&uot; Eddie Parsons of Grayson, Ky., said as he parked his motorcycle along South Third Street near Empire Metal Saturday afternoon.

He and his friend, Jason Pays, also of Grayson, viewed the dozens and dozens of other motorcycles lining both sides of the street.

"We just wanted to come and see all the bikes," Parsons said.

If motorcycles were what they wanted to see, they must have felt as though they were in a sort of Mecca this weekend as bikers, perhaps as many as 1,200 of them, converged on Ironton for the second annual Rally on the River.

The annual event, sponsored by Friends of Ironton, is meant to draw motorcycle enthusiasts to the city for a weekend of fellowship and entertainment and to provide a summertime stimulus to the local economy. It began Thursday and continues through this evening.

Friends of Ironton member Jodi Rowe-Collins estimated 4,000 people visited the rally site Saturday afternoon. Many more were expected Saturday evening for the musical entertainment. An estimated 700 bikers took part in Saturday's poker run.

She and other organizers said they were pleased so many volunteers donated their time to help make the rally a success.

Rowe-Collins said she was also pleased with the response to a new activity this year, the "Gold Rush." Participants paid a small fee and visited 10 local businesses for the chance to win $1,000.

Counting the dollars

For area businesses, the rally was a chance to showcase their wares and services to a captive audience.

Bonnie Maynard, bartender at Frogtown, was surrounded by customers Saturday afternoon as she stood under a tent outside the bar and eatery. Frogtown was one of several establishments that had large banners welcoming bikers to town and catered to the visitors with live music and other activities.

"We've been really busy," Maynard said. "We've had to have all kinds of extra help."

Under a large canopy at the Empire Metals site, Tina Fulks, of Gemstone Customs in Huntington, W.Va., straightened a pile of T-shirts as visitors milled around her.

"Things are going well," she said. "We did this last year. We enjoyed it and came back. It's good for us, good for the city, too."

For those who wanted a little family fun, M&M Inflatables of Coal Grove set up an inflatable trampoline at the Empire Metals site for younger rally goers while anyone could - and did- try their hand at the dunking booth in front of Frogtown.

Harley Crance, 11, was one of several people who lined up to dunk Rally on the River volunteer Angie Mills.

"The water is perfect," Mills said. "I love it."

Would Crance take Mills' place on the dunking board?

"I think it would be fun," he said.

For Mark Robinson, of M&M Inflatables, the "fun" was watching rally goers enjoy his amusements.

"We got with Friends of Ironton for the Gus Macker Tournament and that was great," Robinson said. "After that we told them 'anything you have going, let us know.' Anything we can do in Ironton, we love to do and this has been pretty good for us."

The visitors

Some came on wheels while others walked to the rally. The second annual event drew young and old looking for some late summer fun.

John and Anna Rinkus of Lewisville came because they "heard good things about it" and decided to see the rally for themselves.

For 5-year-old James Michael Carter, the rally provided him an opportunity to see the Team FMX stunt show Friday evening.

He came back Saturday afternoon to get a photo autographed.

At the old Depot, more people strolled between custom cars and the rally's classic car show. Linda Payne, one of the car show organizers, said 60 people brought their cars this year.

"We had 40 last year," she said. "I'm tickled to death." Payne said she was also pleased with the response from area businesses that donated more than $900 in prizes.

What about next year?

Community input is already being sought for next year's event. Address all comments to Friends of Ironton, P.O. Box 448, Ironton, Ohio 45638.

"And we're always looking for new members." said Rick McKnight, one of the Friends of Ironton. "All you have to have is the desire to improve the community you live in."