Killington Classic Draws Record Crowd Labor Weekend

More riders, more vendors: the Classic grows in size and fun
Rider heading back to Killington after block party

Rider heading back to Killington after block party

The Killington Classic drew two thousand motorcyclists to Killington this past Labor Day Weekend for riding, partying and playing in the Green Mountains. The event, which has struggled through management changes and tropical storm damage, finally seems to have gained traction. This year’s edition had the largest attendance in the event’s history and demonstrated its potential to become a significant annual rally.

TourExpo – the same company that runs the Americade Rally in Lake George NY – ran the event for the first time this year. The company’s influence was evident. Many participants said they heard about the event from an Americade mailing and came to Killington because of past positive experiences at that event.

Living up to past success can be difficult, however. Some attendees came expecting as many vendors as at Americade and were disappointed at the smaller scale of the Classic. This year’s Vendor Village had twenty-eight vendors, twice as many as in 2010, the last year the event was run, but significantly less than Americade (2011 was cancelled due to tropical storm Irene damage).

Vendors I spoke with were happy with Saturday’s steady stream of visitors to their booths, but Sunday and Monday were slow. With this year’s attendance, I expect next year’s rally will be more attractive to a greater number of vendors. Finding the right vendor mix and tuning the trade-show setup, scale and hours will likely take a few tries to find the perfect balance for the Classic.

Bike Show
Peg Martin won the bike show’s Best in Show award and Best Cruiser award, for her custom 2008 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe. Martin’s involvement with the Mothers for Daughters breast cancer fund-raising ride was an inspiration for the bike. The bike is a tribute to breast cancer survivors, their families and friends. She hopes the bike will raise awareness of the disease.

Killington Classic Best in Show, 2008 Softail Deluxe
Peg Martin, 2008 Softail Deluxe, Best in Show

My favorite bike of the show was the 1985 Suzuki GS1100E by Bob Hudson of Rutland. The mid-eighties GS was known for its great power, but lacked the chassis to exploit it. Hudson built custom brackets and grafted a front end, swing arm and rear-sets from period GSXR’s to improve the bike’s handling and ride. Hudson’s modifications corrected the bike’s flaws and cut 90 pounds from the bike. After three years of work, Hudson expects to finish the bike this year.

Bob Hudson, GS1100E
Bob Hudson, 1985 Suzuki GS110E

Parade, Block Party and Night Life
The Firday night parade and block party – a signature of the event – was the largest in history with an estimate 750 riders. Although attendance was good, the block party failed to keep riders downtown. The party suffered from too few food vendors and the band was not playing when the parade arrived. As a result, the party broke up quickly.

Playing pool at Jax
Playing pool at Jax

Killington area bars and restaurants did well during the week. Local favorites like The Lookout, Moguls and Jax had crowds on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I had a delicious Portabella mushroom sandwich with onion rings at The Lookout and a healthy grilled chicken sandwich with fresh side salad at Jax. Jax had an excellent selection of Vermont beers, with selections from Wolavers, Long Trail and Shed Brewing.

Providing local bus service on the Killington access road would greatly improve the rally for riders. A bus would enable rally-goers to try different bars and restaurants, but avoid riding at night or after a beer with dinner. A similar service runs during ski season and I think hotels, bars, restaurants and the rally would benefit if the service ran during the rally.

Impact of It All
Riders I spoke with were impressed with Vermont riding and plan to return. John and Diane from the Catskills have ridden all over the eastern United States and said Vermont compares favorably. The two said they would like to return to Vermont, possibly this fall, for a trip to the Northeast Kingdom. A rider from a Massachusetts group said he would like to come back for a charity event next summer and Yvonne from Ontario said she is considering a Vermont riding vacation with her friends next season.

Building a love of Vermont riding may be the Classic’s biggest contribution to Vermont motorcycling. The event began as a way to stimulate summer tourism in the Killington area and it is now beginning to deliver for Vermont. By my conservative estimates, each rally participant spent $350-$400 during to the weekend – a nice burst to the economy during a Vermont shoulder season.

Like a troubled youngest child, the Classic needs to mature and build an identity that distinguishes itself from its past and ancestry. People need to judge the Classic on what it is, rather than what it is not yet. Time makes things classic, and this Classic needs time to mature, to become a real Vermont classic.

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