LAKE GEORGE - Recent months' economic news didn't substantially dampen attendance at this past week's Americade motorcycle rally, government and event officials said Tuesday.
The mother of all touring motorcycle rallies was too much of a draw and has a loyal following that's not deterred by angst over the nation's economic woes, they said.
Lake George Mayor Robert Blais said that Americade, which is estimated to bring in an average of $46 million annually to area businesses and residents, was nearly as strong as ever.
"Americade week is undoubtedly the largest week of the entire summer season, in numbers and in revenue," he said, estimating this year's crowd was down 8 percent or so from recent years, which set records.
Those area businesses surveyed Monday reported strong revenue for this year's event. Most echoed Blais' estimates, while others said they'd had their best crowds and strongest revenues ever.
"We're certainly very fortunate to have such a well-run rally as Americade, that folks want to come back to, year after year," Blais said. "I speak to hundreds of attendees, and they repeatedly praise Americade's organization and activities."
Americade organizer Bill Dutcher also said he was happy with the turnout, and that a late surge of day-trippers made up for an expected decline in pre-registrants.
Kawasaki factory representatives, he said, reported their best year ever for demonstration rides. They reported it was the most demonstration rides they had conducted ever at any rally, anywhere, Dutcher said.
While paid entries and attendance figures weren't yet tallied, the parking lot next to the rally's TourExpo hosted far more vehicles, and vendors were very happy with the heavy attendance, he said.
"Vendors were very, very pleased," he said. "There were enormous crowds Saturday morning in particular."
Dutcher said that while 2009 Americade attendance may have experienced a decline of several percentage points, other rallies nationally were down 35 percent or more, or had been cancelled.
He said Friday night's Americade party held at the Great Escape was the largest ever.
"With the gloom and doom in the news, motorcyclists were particularly delighted to come out to Americade and just have fun, see old friends and enjoy themselves."
Dimming the cheer for Blais and Dutcher, however, was the growing influence of the non-Americade bikers, who drive into town to pose as outlaws and raise a ruckus.
Early Saturday morning, some partyers tangled with county Sheriff's officers, leading to minor injuries among police.
Blais also said that vandalism was a problem, as 85 municipal trash cans, heaping with garbage, up and down Canada Street were overturned late Saturday night, causing a mess through the village.
Also, public rest room doors were kicked in, and flowers were yanked out of planters, Blais said.
"Some motorcyclists not connected with Americade come up here and create a lot of chaos on the streets, and it's an unfortunate byproduct of having a motorcycle rally - what is otherwise a fabulous week for the community," Blais said, noting "immense" crowds clogging the village Saturday.
But for bikers, whether true touring enthusiasts or not, the spectacle of the village streets hosting many thousands of bikers, many on bizarre and unique, customized vehicles, provided a remarkable show.