Bike rally expects to draw economic bonanza to local area

With as many as 70,000 Harley Davidson riders descending upon the river community of Laughlin, Kingman businesses are expecting a needed economic boost.

The 21st annual Laughlin River Run, which organizers say is the country's third largest motorcycle rally, kick-started Wednesday with many bikers making their way through Kingman to the event.

Merchants expect the roar of motorcycles to translate into a hum of cash machines and credit card receipt printouts.

Bars, restaurants, motels and bike shops expect to benefit from the thousands of motorcyclists who make their way toward the Colorado River, Kingman Chamber of Commerce President Beverly Liles said.

Liles said all Kingman major motels and restaurants expected to be booked full for the five-day event.

"Hopefully, the weather will hold out and we'll see lots of them roaming around here," Liles said.

She said taxes coming into the city's coffers from motel occupancy have increased each April since 1997, thanks partly to the River Run.

In 2002, April's lodging tax was the highest ever, she added.

Even so, said Liles, the shooting at Harrah's Casino in Laughlin that killed three bikers had its effect on Kingman.

By Saturday of last year's River Run, some of the local motels had already cleared out, she said.

"It's a matter of wait and see this year," she said.

"I don't foresee any problems."

The Powerhouse Visitor's Center expects its share of bikers because it is along Route 66 and has a gift shop and hobby store along with a restaurant and plenty of parking.

Tony Campbell, general manager of Mother Road Harley Davidson on Beverly Avenue, said he does not expect any problems from the throngs of motorcyclists.

Last year, only one minor incident marred his shop's River Run weekend.

"We're looking forward to having lots of people, having lots of fun and lots of business," Campbell said.

Campbell said as much as 10 percent of his business annually comes from bikers during the River Run weekend.

He gets as much business in the four days as during a normal month, he added.

He said the store will have extra staff on duty to handle maintenance service, sales and parts.

Campbell plans to host a barbecue with music at his shop during the weekend.

He said the event will include a radio station giveaway of a Harley Davidson.

Campbell downplays the image of bikers being violent or anti-social.

Most are hard working, law-abiding people such as businessman, lawyers and even judges who ride in the River Run, he added.

Pat Tarter, owner of the Phat Pat Cycle Works on Andy Devine Avenue, said his shop will have an extra mechanic on duty during the weekend, his second River Run since being in business.

Tarter said he will have an oil change and tire specials as well as drive-in service during the weekend.

No appointments will be necessary.

Tarter also expects to have an artist on hand selling stain glass windows and other collectibles.

He said he will have extra helmets on sale for Arizona bikers who may be unaware of Nevada's helmet law.

"During those 10 days, the weekend before and after the River Run, we've had a 60 percent increase in business," Tarter said.

Dambar & Steak House general manager Sam Shalaby said the River Run weekend has been the busiest weekend for restaurant in the past few years.

On April 24, a barbecue is planned for about 80 bikers in one group that stops in Kingman every year.

Members of that California group have not expressed much concern about last year's shooting at Harrah's, Shalaby said.

"They're all still coming," he added.

The restaurant will have a banner welcoming bikers as well as a special parking area for their motorcycles.

The Brunswick Hotel on historic Route 66 in downtown Kingman has been sold out for two months for the four days.

The hotel's bar and restaurant should be busy, Lena Taylor said.

Taylor, who is the daughter of owner Gerard Guedon, said guests usually book reservations a year in advance.

"It's usually the same group of motorcyclists," she said.

"We consider the River Run and the Fun Run the next week, the peak season of Kingman."

Most guests stayed in rather than ride to Laughlin for the final two days after last year's shooting at Harrah's.

Some checked out a day early, Taylor said.