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Harley bikers hell-bent on rally in Raglan

Raglan looks set to be invaded by up to 1500 leathers-clad bikers this time next year.
But have no fear, it will be no motorbike gang-type invasion of the kind immortalised by a couple of classic American movies of the 50s and 60s — the Harley Owners Group (HOG) are coming to town for their national rally and businessfolk will be welcoming them with open arms.
HOG’s Sydney-based events manager Jolynn Miller was in Raglan last week to talk to local businesses about what they can expect when members of the world’s largest motorcycle club hit our streets in February 2011.
And she was quick to play down any comparisons between a HOG convention and the likes of the movie classic The Wild One, where the Marlon Brando-led Black Rebels invaded a small Californian town.
“We’re big softies and there’s never a problem,” she explained of the Harley Davidson club. “They (the bikers) want to see their mates, ride their bikes and experience the culture. It’s their holiday for the year.”
And if locals give them a warm welcome, she said, “that’s the best we can ask for”.
Singles, couples and some families — ranging from teens up to 70 years of age — typically ride in the rally and “no-one’s going to [attack] the grandmothers”, quipped Hamilton’s Road and Sport principal dealer Shelley Sproule, who was also at the meeting.
As one HOG enthusiast said recently: “We’re family people. We ride safely and stay alive. It’s good healthy fun. People get to see their own country. Their common interests are the motorcycle, the camaraderie and having a good time.”
It was Shelley who first introduced Jolynn to Raglan as a possible venue for next year. The event’s previously been held — among other places nationwide in its 20-year history — at Waikato Stadium, Mystery Creek and Te Rapa Racecourse, but rarely if ever at so small a town.
Jolynn was smitten with Raglan and its recreational pursuits on offer, she told those at the unofficial Chamber of Commerce gathering, and her search for “the perfect spot” was over.
Although the site plan has yet to be set, she said the two-day event — finally okayed by Waikato District Council last week after a full year’s negotiations — will take place at Kopua Domain’s soccer fields where local bands, vendors and activities will also be showcased.
The second day of the event, a Saturday, will see the rally’s iconic thunder run along the length of Marine Parade — a “very organised” line-up of the 1200 or more Harleys, led by police, which traditionally provides a real spectacle for locals who flock to see the bikers en masse.
Later that day, added Jolynn, there’ll be a Show and Shine featuring all the bikes parked in the town centre — where again the public gets the chance to be involved with a rally attracting Harley riders not only from New Zealand but also from Australia, America, Europe and Asia.
“They (the bikers) just love to brag about their bikes and show them off,” she said.
That Saturday night, predicted Jolynn, the town will profit from many of the visitors eating out at “all the wonderful local cafes” before returning to their accommodation of choice, whether it be backpackers or high end establishments.
The HOG rally will indeed be “the biggest event we’ll ever have here”, says local councillor and deputy mayor Clint Baddeley who is also well aware of the logistics involved.
But Raglan needs different events, he believes, which both impact economically and provide something of interest for the locals. Plus, he adds, there’s the ongoing potential for tourism.
Organisers, he says, want to involve businesses, iwi and people on the street. And he’s convinced they’re “doing their utmost” to make it work.

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