Likely locations emerge for ’22 Bikes, Blues & BBQ

ROGERS — Space for “social distancing” is one of the benefits Bikes, Blues & BBQ got when it moved to Rogers from Fayetteville, organizers said.

Venues for the Oct. 5-8 motorcycle rally will be enjoyed at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Eureka Springs, Tommy Sisemore, executive director of the charity event, said Thursday.

Even Harrison’s businesses will welcome motorcycle enthusiasts this fall, he said.

Sisemore said negotiations with various sites are continuing. He expects an announcement of confirmed venues and events in about two weeks.

Sisemore spoke Thursday at a briefing for Rogers town officials and tourism experts at the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce building. Most attended the meeting via Zoom.

Raymond Burns, president and CEO of the chamber, listed some likely sites for events, including the Rogers Convention Center, Arkansas Music Pavilion, downtown Rogers and areas along Hudson Road, where four motorcycle manufacturers sell year-round.

The car show at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale will continue there, Sisemore said. Events that are not officially part of the festival but attract motorcycle enthusiasts will continue in Eureka Springs.

For 20 years, Fayetteville has been the host city for the event which has grown from around 300 attendees to around 300,000 in recent years. The rally has grown to include official events at Baum-Walker Stadium, home of the University of Arkansas baseball team.

The rally was canceled in 2020 and 2021 in the face of the pandemic, and the ballpark was unavailable in 2022, leading organizers to move the event, Sisemore said.

“Downtown Fayetteville has become very compact and they fill most of the open space,” Sisemore said. “At Rogers, we will have room to expand. It will also give us the opportunity to grow.”

Sisemore expects the future will see rally events split between Rogers and Eureka Springs. He said organizers don’t expect motorcycles to dominate the city’s infrastructure, as they did in Fayetteville.

“We are not asking for any road closures. We are not asking to restrict traffic on city streets to motorcycles only,” he said.

Rogers Police Chief Jonathan Best, Fire Chief Tom Jenkins and Mayor Greg Hines all attended the briefing via Zoom but expressed no concerns. Rogers Police spokesman Keith Foster did not respond to a text message Thursday afternoon.

Burns said the only concerns about the event he heard were about traffic jams and noise.

“But that’s everyday at Rogers,” he laughed.

The 2020 census recorded nearly 70,000 people living in Rogers.

Sisemore said he received harsh comments for hosting an event in the midst of the pandemic, from people predicting a “super spreader” event. He promised that city officials and event organizers would continually reassess the situation in the eight months leading up to the scheduled event.

“We want to push the whole Northwest Arkansas experience,” Burns said of Bikes, Blues & BBQ. “We want to encourage them to buy locally.

“We want them to come back in the spring, come back in the summer, and straddle northwest Arkansas.”

A 2013 Rally Economic Impact Report by the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business found that Bikes, Blues & BBQ attracts approximately 200,000 people from outside the northwest of Arkansas in the region.

Visitors and local participants contribute about $80 million annually to the local economy, Sisemore said. The event has raised a total of around $3 million for local charities over the years, he said.

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