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Bikes, Blues & BBQ Grows From Humble Start

Bikes, Blues & BBQ is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Northwest Arkansas this week, but the first year didn't even attract one hundred bikes.
Fayetteville, AR - Bikes, Blues & BBQ is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to Northwest Arkansas this week, but the first year didn't even attract one hundred bikes.

The first rally started as little more than a poker run for charity, but over the last 14 years the festival has grown to one of the biggest rallies in the nation.

"It started out here on Dickson Street with about 75 motorcycles, one barbeque grill and a blues band," says Executive Director Joe Giles.

But after organizers hired a promoter, the rally took off at full throttle.

"We're at the point now where in Fayetteville we expect about 250,000 folks, regionally we expect about 400,000," Giles says. "It's going to be a great big party again... In the world of festivals and motorcycle rallies, growth this rapid and this large is simply unheard of. This doesn't happen. It's a phenomenon."

Giles says Northwest Arkansas' blacktop inspired the event, and he believes the riding keeps bringing bikers back.

"I think a lot of it can be based on the quality of roads we have here in Northwest Arkansas," he says. "We are centrally located, and for whatever reason, the rally just caught the imagination of the biking public."

Organizers differentiated the Fayetteville festival from the start, by making sure everyone was welcome.

"We take great pride in being a family friendly event," Giles says. "We have no nudity. We allow no lewdness."

The event that started with a charity poker run, won't shift gears.

"Every year after all the bills are paid we look at how much we've got left, sometimes we have lots, sometimes we don't have much, whatever we have we donate to local charities," Giles says. "We will always be a family friendly, charity driven rally. That is our philosophy and we're not changing it."

Last year the festival donated $90,000 to local charities, and this year more than twenty non-profits are partnering with the event.
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