The Quad-Cities have been a-buzz with the sound of motorcycles this week as the 15th annual Sturgis Mississippi River Motorcycle Rally brought almost 50,000 enthusiasts to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.
Over a hundred vendors from all over the country offered specialty items such as custom dog tags and embroidered patches, clothing, chrome helmets and bike parts and accessories. Corn dogs, kettle corn, nachos, curly fries and smoothies kept attendees fed as a tattoo artist showcase, Rolling Thunder Series of Flat Track, and other special events filled the fairgrounds for four days. The event ended Saturday evening.
"The Sturgis is now in the top 10 in terms of size of motorcycle events," said Sturgis producer Glenn Rohm of Coal Valley, Ill. Instead of Midwestern motorcyclists having to travel to events on the coasts or to Sturgis, S.D., "we want to offer everything you need right here."
Leather items were sold by several vendors. "We wear leather for two reasons: safety and comfort," said Grady Harris, who ran the road crew for Black Jack Leather of St. Louis. "If you fall off or have an accident, leather chaps, a jacket or vest are more durable than jeans and you'll have less of an injury."
"It's also for comfort on a long ride," he said. "You're out in the elements when you're riding. Leather is a great wind blocker and protects you in rain or cold."
Men's jewelry designer Lional McKinney of Albuquerque, N.M., sold rings, necklaces and bracelets made of sterling silver, white and yellow gold, and palladium. "My son and I are craftsmen and designers," he said. McKinney "travels the circuit" and came to the Sturgis by recommendation from others.
Bernie Tennis of Madison, Wis., drew caricatures while customers waited. Tennis said that he spends about half his time in his computer career and the other half traveling to events to sketch. "Every time someone sits down (for a portrait) I learn something new," he said.
Couples, families and individuals rode in to the fairgrounds on their motorcycles. "The age group is 18 and up," said Rohm, "with the majority of riders 30 and older."
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At least one ABATE member (A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education) wore a bright green T-shirt with "Can you see me now?" on the back as a not-so-subtle reminder for motorists to watch for motorcyclists on the road.
The Sturgis previously was held in the Village of East Davenport, the 2nd Street area, LeClaire Park and Centennial Park before coming to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, said Rohm, who has directed the event for the last 12 years. "We were forced to come here last year because of the flood," he said, "but it turned out to give us many more opportunities."
On Friday, poor weather resulted in a few minor injuries when a large tent blew over, Rohm said. Despite that setback, Saturday's crowd seemed eager to listen to the bands, talk shop, purchase gear and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts.