Turn on The Discovery Channel on any given day of the week, and you'll likely get a glimpse of some prime time bike builders constructing some pretty cool machines. But to catch these same professionals up close, you have only to head to your own back yard. Some of the biggest names in custom bike building will be making a stop in Bay City's Veteran's Park fromJuly 27 -30 to showcase their work, and sped time hob knobbing with fans.
It's just a small part of the many cool attractions planned for the 2nd Annual Graff Chevrolet Bike Bash. Given the success of the first, the enthusiasm of local bikers, businesses and vendors has ensured a good turn out for this year as well.
Stephen J. Coppler, President and Event Organizer from AdoreAble Productions, says special preparations have been made for this second year. "Last year the event was put together in only 90 days, but the response we received was that it was the best bike show in the state. This year we started planning in November. We have more bike shops and activities planned to make it bigger and better than last year, and to raise more money for local charities."
Coppler estimates that over 23 thousand bikers took to the streets and riverfront in Bay City for the bash last year. Preparing to handle what they believe will be even higher attendance this year means careful planning and cooperation with all of the agencies involved. "We were blown away by the attendance at last years' event" says Coppler. "This year, with the early start, we have been able to go to all the swap meets and other biker events. We have more bike groups involved, such as the Forgotten Eagles, Hogs in Ministry, and Christian Bikers that have broadened our base. We work hand in hand with the City of Bay City, the Parks Department, MDOT, Police, and many volunteer groups to ensure a fun, festive atmosphere." says Coppler
Visitors to the The 2nd Annual Graff Chevrolet Bay City Bike Bash should expect a far bigger event for many reasons. "Particularly," he says, "with the Hog Rendezvous moving away from West Branch. The first event has provided the best marketing; Word of mouth advertising".
"This year" he says, "we have more of the bike builders from the Discovery channel. The best bike street stunt team in the nation is coming. The Wall of Death Stunt Team. There are more high-end bike shops and corporate displays from Yamaha and Harley. Basically, more of everything."
Word of mouth advertising seems to have worked for the event planners with more than just biking fans. Some of the main attractions on the appearance list were signed on the old fashioned way, says Coppler. "The big names are acquired by going to the bike shows and having 1, 2, or ten Molson's with these guys."
He goes on to say that celebrated bike builders, such as Mike Campo of Orange County Choppers, and LeeStamper (formerly of Milwaukee Iron and now the Southern Steel TV Show), have local connections who helped bring big name interest to the venue.
"Detroit Bros. came to the event last year and were a huge success. We have developed a great friendship, and they had a great time in Bay City last year and are looking forward to doing it again. Eric Gorges (Voodoo Choppers) heard great things about the event from the Bros. and Ron Finch, (who was here last year), and said 'I have to be a part of that".
Local businesses such as Hooters and Airgas Great Lakes will be displaying some of their famously built bikes as well tying in with the big names expected this year. Aside from famous builders and big sponsors, the primary focus, says Coppler, is the public service opportunities the bike bash creates.
"The goal of the event is to raise money for local charities. Last year we were able to raise $15,000.00, and our goal for this year is at least $25,000.00. We wanted to create a fun, festive weekend for bikers and with the popularity of the motorcycle shows on TV. It's a chance for local people to check out these awesome machines first hand."
Steve Coppler knows that bikers have big hearts, and says that's the most rewarding aspect of the project. So this year, the donations and projects to aid children's charities continue. The "Bears for Bikers" ride will hit the street on Friday, July 28th in with 2 advance drop off
locations wherein bikers can bring a new or slightly used stuffed animal for the ride to Mt Pleasant Hospital, Midland Hospital, and Bay Medical to benefit their patient and ambulance programs.
"Last year we had over 380 stuffed animals!" says Coppler. "The Golf Scramble on Thursday benefits Juvenile Diabetes and Created for Caring. The Saturday Poker Run benefits Camp Fishtails, and many other charities volunteer their time, raffle bikes and help in many ways."
Event planners are hoping that the Annual Graff Chevrolet Bay City Bike Bash will grow in the coming years to become a full-fledged bike week. "Hopefully" says Steve "The event builds from a four day festival to a bike week. We will probably have to expand beyond Vet's Park, across the river to Wenona Park." He points out that the bash has already expanded, with pre-bash festivities including a Tuesday night kickoff party and a poker run/pub crawl on Midland Street slated for Wednesday.
For those unfamiliar with the biker culture and the sorts of activities one can expect, Coppler makes a point to let folks know that the atmosphere is family friendly, with some events geared toward honoring veterans and raising the flag.
"Sunday is (going to be) a special day. There will be a biker church service, a blessing of the bikes, and the Vietnam Monument Color Guard ceremony." Coppler says that it's really something to behold. "It's amazing to see them tie in God, and patriotism. The chills that go up your spine when the national anthem is played, flags raised by the Color Guard, and then the thousands of bikes roaring in unison in honor of our troops"
"So many bike events we went to are dark, dusty, things in the middle of a farm field," says Coppler,
"But Bay City's waterfront provided a great atmosphere for the entire family to come see all the chrome they don't normally get to see. My niece was three when she went to the event last year. When she came to Ron Finch's booth, he picked up, put her on his 16 ft. motorcycle, and got his picture taken with her. He also gave her an autographed picture. She spent the rest of the day showing everyone her picture of Ron, saying 'This is my new friend Ron, his booth is over there!"
Coppler says more grown up activities include a Giant Molson beer tent, and some biker friendly live music featuring various local bands. He points out that bikini and tattoo contests, wet-T shirt competitions and the like will take place at post-event parties at Hooters and Castaways each night. Families should enjoy include onsite rustic camping, the performance of a street bike team, various eating contests, The Wall of Death, Karaoke, and much more. Visitors at this year's bash will also get chance to see a bike being built onsite in four days.
Instead of slamming beers, says Coppler, the event will feature a "Slam a can of Coke" event.
With all the planning involved in this 2nd Annual Graff Chevrolet Bay City Bike Bash, it is nearly impossible for Steve Coppler to list them all in a short interview, but he sure tries.
What is amazing is his ability to keep it all-straight. It only began last year and yet tens of thousands of bikers and bike enthusiasts are expected to flood Bay City for what should be a great time for all.