By Valerie Baldowski
Thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the United States have converged on Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 32nd annual National Bikers Roundup.
The event is the largest biker camping rally in the country, according to Henry County Chamber of Commerce President Kay Pippin. The event began Tuesday, and is scheduled to conclude Sunday. Local officials expect the festivities, which are tinged with a party atmosphere, to be a boon to the area's economy.
"A short survey of hotels today tells us our hotels are packed," said Pippin. "Most are reporting only a few vacancies, and those are expected to vanish as we move into the weekend."
Local eateries are also filling up with out-of-state visitors, she continued.
"AMS tells us they expect to sell between 50,000 and 60,000 tickets to see the roundup," Pippin added.
The event features vendors who traveled to the track from all over the country to set up their booths and sell their wares. The roundup also includes performances by a number of musical entertainers.
"We encourage everyone to roll out the welcome wagon for the bikers," said Pippin. They "are bringing thousands of dollars into our community, and all they want in return is friendly hospitality."
One of the bikers at the roundup Wednesday was Reddell Harris, of Vacherie, La. Harris is president of No Limit Motorsports, and is a member of the Nubian Cruzers bike club out of Baton Rouge, La. He also owns the motorcycle racing team, P. Miller Motorsports.
Harris said the roundup is a chance for bikers to connect with one another.
"It's a big family event," he said. "It's a family reunion for bikers. You've got thousands here. You've got at least 500 or 600 different bike clubs, so you probably have 100,000 to 200,000 people here."
The actual number of bikers at the event is expected to steadily rise as the roundup continues, added Harris. The best thing about attending the event, he said, is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.
The roundup also is hosting a food drive, sponsored by the Georgia Roundup Committee and God's Wheels Motorcycle Ministry of Kansas City, Mo., said Tonia Cunningham, a God's Wheels member.
Cunningham was among other volunteers who were staffing the club's booth on Wednesday, and monitoring donations of canned goods dropped into large bins placed by the booth. Donations collected will be distributed throughout the metro Atlanta area, she said.
Cunningham said her group's mission is to reach out to others in the community, and "minister to someone who just might need to know about Christ."
The National Bikers Roundup was formed in the 1970s by a small group of motorcycle clubs in the Kansas City, Mo., area. It evolved into an annual national event, said Pippin. The event rotates to different cities throughout the country, and those who attend the event have a chance to vote on where to hold the roundup the following year.
On the net:
National Bikers Roundup: www.nbrkcmo.com