Taking a break from manning his booth May 30 at the Warrensburg Bike Rally, vendor ‘Badger Bob’ Huddleson talks about the pelts, furs and animal heads he uses to create his eye-catching motorcycle helmets — one of which is owned by rock star Steven Tyler. Held simultaneously with the internationally-renowned Americade touring motorcycle rally, the Warrensburg show continues through June 8 at the Warren County Fairgrounds off Schroon River Road, Warrensburg
On the Warren County Fairgrounds May 30, Ed Zibro wheeled his golf cart around the aisles of the Warrensburg Bike Rally to talk with vendors at the annual event he co-founded in 2001.
A man lurched toward him, extending his arm for a handshake. It was Kevin Roach of Daytona
Beach Fla., a vendor of motorcycle apparel.
“I want to thank you — the crowd here is unreal,” he said about attendance at what’s been called the “renegade” motorcycle rally which has become successful on the coattails of Americade. “People are just rolling in — it’s been non-stop all day.”
Driving past several of his 40 vendors, Zibro talked about the growth of the rally he co-founded with Gary Verhulst, a motorcycle tire vendor from Georgia.
“We have vendors from the Florida Keys to California,” Zibro said. “It’s turned out to be a home run.”
With 30,000 or more motorcyclists expected to register at this week’s colossal Americade touring motorcycle rally in Lake George — and that many or more dropping into the village unregistered — the attendance at Zibro’s rival rally is expected to grow substantially in the next few days.
Zibro said his vendors have doubled from 20 to 40 this year, and his attendance has multiplied by the same factor.
Driving past vendors, Verhulst speculated on the reason for the growth. He said that the Warrensburg rally’s vendor fees are far lower than Americade’s, which ranges from several thousand dollars to eight thousand at their TourExpo. Vendors who spend several thousand dollars just on fuel to haul their booth and merchandise from Florida, Arizona or California can’t afford to pay the Americade fees and still make a profit, he added, but they can at the Warrensburg rally — which he predicted would double in size and attendance again in 2015.
“Americade has the big corporate vendors who can afford the fees, but we have the little guys with the unique items,” he said, noting that TourExpo also charges admission fees to the public, but the Warrensburg Bike Rally does not. Among the vendors at the Warrensburg rally with unique wares is Robert “Badger Bob” Huddleson of Vista Ca. with his “Howling Helmets” enterprise. Huddleson creates helmets bearing a wide variety of animal horns pelts, and bones. Rock star Steven Tyler wore one of his creations on American Idol to the delight of fans. Dale Earnhardt also owns one of his custom-crafted helmets that range from $200 to $3,500. His creations have also been featured on The Travel Channel.
On display at the Warrensburg rally was a helmet bearing a box turtle shell with the head of a baby alligator and the pelt of an exotic animal from overseas.
“I have people all over the world collecting horns and pelts for my helmets,” Huddleston said. “I don’t ever want to be cookie-cutter in my work.”
The next row over, Bob Parow of Sauquoit, NY was selling cans carved or cast to the shape of human leg bones.
“These canes are so different — they attract a lot of attention at shows all over the nation,” he said, noting he started his enterprise after he made one for himself after surgery.
Bikers boost commerce in Warrensburg
For well over a decade, Warrensburg has been welcoming motorcyclists drawn to the Lake George region for Americade which has been held in Lake George Village for 32 years. For 14 years, thousands of bikers have flocked to Warrensburg during Americade and for the several days preceding, eating in local restaurants and browsing through merchandise at local stores.
With the move of the Zibro’s rally from uptown Main St. to the fairgrounds on Schroon River Road three years ago, the motorcycle traffic through the hamlet has decreased, but the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce is seeking to keep up the momentum, chamber vice president Linda Marcella said Monday. For the first three days of the Warrensburg Bike Rally, she was strolling through the rally, wlecoming bikes, and encouraging them to visit local businesses, many of whom are extending special deals to the bikers.
“We’re encouraging people to have a good time at the rally and come back into town and patronize our local merchants who support the bikers, she said, mentioning that the rally vendors pay a $125 transient merchant fee to the town, as well as sales tax, some of which is funneled back to local government. Kim and Pam Ladd of Thurman and Warrensburg were busy over the weekend manning the chamber booth, welcoming rally attendees to town.
Marcella said that the early-June bike rally gives Warrensburg businesses a vital boost.
“Ed Zibro and his partner are working very hard to not only make it successful, but to assure our local businesses are supported,” she said. “As long as we work together, we all win.”