Pendleton roads rumble once more with Bike Week.
Motorcycle riders near and far make Pendleton their home from now until Sunday morning. Bike Week founder Eric Folkestad said 16,000 came last year during the four days of the event and he expects that many or more this year. And organizer Al “Capone” Rafferty said Bike Week has grown into the largest motorcycle rally in the Pacific Northwest.
The event draws veterans, lawyers and even outlaw bikers, but Folkestad said 60 percent of attendees come from the Puget Sound area of Washington, home to major corporations Boeing and Microsoft. Those riders, he said, stay in hotel rooms, dine out and spend their money in Pendleton.
Part of the draw is Pendleton’s authenticity and ties to the Old West, he said, but the city also has the facilities to host these big events, from the convention center, which works as Bike Week headquarters, to plenty of hotels and food options. Lots of big rallies, he said, lack these amenities.
“We’re like one of the only rallies that has an air conditioned saloon,” Folkestad said.
This rally also does not have run-ins with the law, Rafferty said, because public safety is a top priority. He said event staff keep the peace when trouble rears up, and that lack of drama is a boon to gaining law enforcement approval.
Clearly, Folkestad said, Bike Weeks taps into filling a need. Rafferty, a former combat Marine, said bikers call it wind therapy.
“It clears your head when the demons come out,” he said. “There’s nothing better than going on a ride ... getting right with the world, then you can make decisions. That’s what we’re trying to promote.”
Folkestad said Bike Weeks is not just for riders. He said all are welcome, and he and Rafferty said there’s plenty to take in, from a test ride on an Indian motorcycle to the pool tournament to seeing rock legends Foghat mainline the Saturday night concert.
But riding is the blood of Bike Week. Rafferty asked locals to embrace the slogan “Look twice, save a life.” With so many more riders on area roads the next few days, that could make a difference in safety.