GRAVENHURST - Muskoka Wharf is destined to be the backdrop for a sea of chrome, leather and even celebrity as a major motorcycle rally is being organized for next summer.
Mike Dunphy, a key organizer of the first ever and ideally not last Muskoka Motorcycle Rally, presented his plans to council Oct. 2, saying it won’t be exactly the scale of rallies like Bike Week in Daytona or the annual rally held in Port Dover that brings out 100,000, but it could draw upwards of 5,000 to 10,000 people to town along with their wallets.
“Having been up here for so many years we just think this would be the perfect place to host,” he said. “Realistically, we want to be conservative for the first year, but we expect a draw of 3,000 riders on the Friday and upwards of 5,000 riders on the Saturday and of course, all those bikes will draw a lot of locals and visitors to see the shiny metal.”
“My plan is to develop a world-class motorcycle rally, bring awareness to the area (and) obviously inject a lot of money into the local businesses,” he added.
The rally will run July 19 and 20, the only available weekend next summer at the wharf, with the annual triathlon set for the weekend prior. Dunphy, of Washago Beach, requested use of “the entire wharf area” for the event, including the Lions’ Pavilion area and the sports fields.
“We’re not bikers, we’re not Satan’s Choice or Hell’s Angels, we’re actually Sons of Arthritis, the ibuprofen division,” Dunphy said, jesting that the motorcycle crowd won’t exactly be the rambunctious type. “When we get off (our bikes), we’re hurting.”
A weekend rider himself, Dunphy said the event won’t be like a charity ride and while there will be demo rides available from sponsors, the rally will essentially remain stationary at the wharf and family oriented.
He said most of the motorcycles at the rally will be touring bikes costing in excess of $30,000 and about 25 per cent will be the high-performance sports bikes.
Dunphy said he already has backing and sponsorship for the event from some “big, big players,” including title sponsors in Budweiser and Harley-Davidson and a long list of secondary sponsors online.
The event will include live, local entertainment, beer gardens and a mix of vendors.
“We’re not doing anything cheesy, we’re not doing tattoos or piercings, we’re keeping it PG-friendly,” Dunphy added. All marketing for the event will also include the Town of Gravenhurst in all of its materials and signage, he added.
But the real plumb pick of the rally will be a celebrity appearance Dunphy has already organized.
“We’ve thought about what would make our event, besides hosting it in Muskoka, something that people would truly want to drive up from the south (for and) draw from the north,” he said.
He explained a private citizen has commissioned the famed Orange County Choppers crew to design a custom bike. Paul Teutul Sr. will tour north to the event in what will be one of his first forays into Canada and unveil the creation.
“Having a celebrity draw like that will certainly create the media attention, the tourist attention, not to mention bringing all the bikers up here to spend money in the area,” Dunphy said.
“I’m not looking to do this for one year,” he added. “I want to do this year after year and I think Muskoka’s a great draw.”
“It’s a great event for the community,” Mayor Paisley Donaldson said, with council also giving its support to the event, admitting she does carry a motorcycle licence herself.
Amy Taylor, the town’s community events facilitator, said initial research staff has done shows that the one-day event in Port Dover, although much larger in scale, can generate upwards of $50 million on their rally, at about $206 per person per day. “Those enthusiasts come back to the community and it’s another spinoff of about $17 million for the community,” she said.
“It’s a huge event and it’s really a new demographic that we haven’t catered to,” she added.