Hundreds of motorcyclists will invade Winchester next month for what event organizers say will be the biggest of its kind thus far.
The 2012 Fire & Iron National Rally is coming to town, and local Fire & Iron chapter president Greg Harrison expects between 1,500 and 2,000 members to attend the festivities July 23-29.
Fire & Iron is a firefighters motorcycle club. The national rally brings together chapters from all over the country and takes place every two years. The 2012 rally will be the fourth national event, Harrison said.
Past rallies have been in Ohio, Texas and Massachusetts.
“There’s several rides each day going to different places,” Harrison said.
The rides will go through locations including West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee and Red River Gorge, Harrison said. They will all start and end in Winchester.
On Saturday, July 28, the rally members will host the 10th Annual Benefit Motorcycle Ride for Kids, which is open to the public. It will be a poker ride, and all proceeds will go to the Gateway Kentucky Special Olympics.
The poker ride will start at Winchester Fire-EMS Station 3 on Fortune Drive.
“And what a poker ride is, is everybody signs up, they pay ‘x’ amount of dollars, and they draw cards when they register,” Harrison said. “They’ll draw one card, and then we’ll have a set mapped out course for them. And each stop is a checkpoint and they’ll draw another card. By the time they get back to the end, they will have drawn five cards. Whoever has the best poker hand wins.”
The entry fee for the poker ride fundraiser is $15 per person, and the first 100 entries will receive a T-shirt. The best hand wins $100, and the second best wins $50, although Harrison said most winners donate their winnings back to the Special Olympics.
Registration for the poker ride will begin at Station 3 at 10 a.m., and the ride will leave at noon.
A lot of the rally’s events throughout the week for members will be held at Ron and Judy Tierney’s warehouse on Rockwell Road.
Saturday after the poker ride, members of the public can go to the warehouse at about 5 p.m. to enjoy live music, motorcycle games, food and refreshments, and vendors. Harrison said there also will be a big tractor-trailer video game at the warehouse for the public to enjoy.
“And you go in, and they play scenarios, drive fire trucks, police cars. It’s called the driving simulator,” he said.
Those who don’t participate in the poker ride earlier Saturday will have to pay $5 for a wristband at the warehouse that evening.
Winchester received the bid to host this year’s rally at the 2010 rally in Massachusetts, Harrison said, but local members have been planning for the event to be in Winchester for about five years.
Nancy Turner, executive director of the Winchester-Clark County Tourism Commission, said the Fire & Iron rally will make a huge economic impact not only in the local community but also in the surrounding communities.
“It will also be a wonderful opportunity to showcase us and the region, and this is the perfect example of a unique tourism event, because those folks will be here for a long period of time, they’ll be staying at our hotels, they’ll be filling up at our gas stations, eating in our restaurants, spending money in our shops, so that is a perfect tourism event, and we are really excited,” Turner said following a recent tourism commission meeting where Harrison spoke about the event. “It would be great to recruit more of those events in the future.”
Residents of Clark County, Turner said, are the “best ambassadors” of the community, because most are involved with other groups and travel places with those groups.
“We need to try to train ourselves into playing host or hostess rather than going out because regardless of whether you might have 15 people or 115 people in your organization, that still can be a great economic impact to the community,” she said. “And this event will be great.”
Because of Fire & Iron’s connections nationwide, the rally will highlight Winchester on a large scale with little expense, she added.
“Because it’ll be word of mouth and social media and things of that nature,” Turner said.
Harrison said he has been receiving hundreds of phone calls and texts a day related to the rally. Harrison booked about 700 hotel rooms for the event in Winchester and the surrounding area.
“This rally this year, we’re expecting it to be as big as the last three put together ... most of them are averaging 200 to 250 rooms, and we’re at 700,” Harrison said.
The rally, Harrison said, is a good boost to local tourism because it not only brings people from all over the country to Winchester, but it also is an opportunity to showcase specific local attractions.
“What we were talking about at the meeting, is getting some pamphlets and stuff for Fort Boonesborough, some of that stuff and just put them actually in the (registration) packet,” Harrison said. “That way when they get back to their hotel room, and they’re not doing anything and they’re going through it, they may see that and say ‘Hey, I’d like to go down there and see this.’”
For more information about the rally or the poker ride, email Harrison at email@example.com, or visit FireandIron45.com.