‘Heroes Salute’ and larger motorcycle rally planned for downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 174 views 

The rumble of motorcycles may soon be a more regular sound along Garrison Avenue in downtown Fort Smith. A motorcycle parade will take place in two weeks and a planned large-scale motorcycle rally benefitting local non-profits is planned for next year.

Dennis Snow, organizer of the motorcycle rally and the host of Thunder TV, said the events would introduce Fort Smith to a new group of tourists and locals who love to ride.

The first event, the Heroes Salute motorcycle parade, will take place Sept. 27, with staging at 9 a.m. at Fort Smith Park on Riverfront Drive, Snow said. The ride will start at 10 a.m. "with kickstands up" and follow a police escort to downtown, following A Street to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and then down Garrison.

The ride will end at the Fort Smith National Cemetery, where an event will take place to welcome the cemetery's new director Adriene Benton and lay wreaths at the graves of veterans.

"We'll have a real quick ceremony there to lay wreaths on the graves of all Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and first responders," Snow said. "We'll have taps played and then bagpipes (will play) 'Amazing Grace.'"

Snow said the event is free to all who choose to participate and said he would expects "a conservative" estimate of 1,000 riders to attend the event, which will continue on to Bikes, Blues and Barbecue in Fayetteville following the ceremony at the National Cemetery.

The Heroes Salute is the first of two planned events in the downtown area, he said. The second event is planned for May 1 and May 2 and will be known as the Steel Horse Rally.

"I've had it in my mind for 20 years," he said. "It's sort of like working your entire life to get to this moment."

Snow, who has previous experience organizing rallies in Hot Springs and has been involved with the Bikes, Blues and Barbecue rally in Fayetteville, said the Fort Smith area is primed for a motorcycle rally that would bring in people from not only the region but across the United States. The BBB rally in Northwest Arkansas has acclimated hundreds of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to much of Arkansas.

"People know the roads (leading to Bikes, Blues and Barbecue). Now people can stay down here, experience the Talimena Drive, go to Hot Springs. People know about the Pig Trail and Highway 23."

He said one of the primary draws from the perspective of potential rally attendees and participants is the width of Garrison Avenue, which he said is one of the widest main streets in a downtown area in America. With such width, more bikes and tourists can fit into the central business district for the event.

"People coming in already know about the inherent beauty of the area, but we have so much more room for bikers to be set up. And we have requested to close Garrison Avenue for two nights. We asked for it four months ago and they were positive about everything. Everyone I've talked to has been excited about this."

To take part in the event, Snow – a former board member of the Riverfront Blues Festival – said a non-profit Steel Horse Rally Foundation has been formed that will organize the rally for an admission fee and then disseminate the funds to other area non-profit organizations.

With admission, guests will be able to enjoy the stream of motorcycles up and down Garrison, as well as enjoy concerts on both nights of the event.

"We will have a motorcycle demonstration team to come in and bring in family-based entertainment during the daytime for a family-friendly environment. When the sun goes down and bikers come back in (from riding), that's when we will launch the entertainment at other locations, including bars and restaurants. This is a win, win for everyone, including the city of Fort Smith."

He said the event does not compete with Bikes, Blues and Barbecue, but instead builds upon he Northwest Arkansas event in a way that should boost tourism in the Fort Smith area.

"It seems like people have forgotten about it, but there's history here and so much more than just western history," he said. "It's a great time to come in and explore and we will give them so much more than the Steel Horse Rally."

Admission, he said, would be tax deductible and while ticket prices have yet to be set, "it won't break people's banks or anything."

Snow said there will be volunteer opportunities, as well, which would come with free admission to the event and could include perks, such as event t-shirts, depending on the volunteer position.

For more information on the rally, visit ThunderTV.net.