Final plans set for inaugural Steel Horse Rally in downtown Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 217 views 

Organizers, area business owners and city officials will be working and watching this weekend to learn how the inaugural Steel Horse Rally may set the stage for the rally’s potential in future years. The event is set for the upcoming weekend (May 1-2) in downtown Fort Smith, with a spectator’s row, Biker Vendor Village, live music and an estimated 5,000 participants.

Event organizers and backers say the rally could grow to be one of the largest motorcycle rallies in a several state region. They have noted that the large and successful Bikes, Blues and BBQ rally in Northwest Arkansas had modest beginnings. (Michael Tilley, a co-owner of The City Wire, is on the Steel Horse Board of Directors.)

The event is geared toward honoring members of the military, veterans, police and firefighters and first responders. The rally also helps local charities including the Gregory Kistler Treatment Center, The Arkansas Veterans Home, The Fort Smith Museum of History and the Darby Legacy Project.

“As bikers, this is our way of saying thank you to those who have bravely served,” said Dennis Snow, president of the Steel Horse Rally Inc. “As a veteran, it makes me proud to see so many people taking pride in our community and thanking our military, veterans, law enforcement and first responders. This is a great opportunity for everyone to come out and be part of the Steel Horse Rally.”

Tickets are only $10 per person per day or $15 for the entire weekend, and there is free parking. Tickets are available May 1-2 at the gate at Harry E. Kelley Riverfront Park in downtown Fort Smith near the Arkansas River.

Event organizers estimate that 200 people will have volunteered to support the event by the end of the weekend. The group plans to recognize a top volunteer with the “Bert Wright Spirit of the Rally” award. Organizers are also receiving good feedback on possible attendance.

“As far as turnout, we are expecting a huge number of bikers coming into town. Two local hotels told us last week that they are sold out of rooms for the weekend, something that normally doesn't happen for that weekend,” said Karen Snow, secretary for Steel Horse Rally Inc. “We know bikers from at least 15 different states have already made reservations and will be attending. There are groups coming from Dallas, Memphis and even Michigan.”

Vendors and booth exhibitors include:
• Vendors that make custom leather products and have illuminated signs;
• Steel Horse Rally official merchandise booths featuring official Steel Horse Rally T-shirts and patches;
• Tattoo Alley at the Steel Horse Rally in the Riverfront (Glass) Pavilion will feature award-winning tattoo artists who will do tattoos for people attending the rally;
• Representatives from the U.S. Marshals Museum and the Museum of Military History in Russellville;
• The Hellfighters of Fort Smith will have the same trailer and items that bikers may have seen at large rallies like Sturgis and Daytona;
• There will be new vehicles on display from Breeden Auto Group, one of the sponsors of the Steel Horse Rally; and
• Food vendors will include The Movie Lounge, BBQ, Bruce Terri Catering, funnel cakes, and Dhat Dher Beef Jerky.

A key feature of the event will be the “Thunder Through The Valley” motorcycle parade held Saturday afternoon and will see motorcycles travel from Fort Smith Park to downtown Fort Smith. The parade will include bikers representing different branches of the military and those who served overseas and in combat operations.

“The Steel Horse Rally Motorcycle Parade is dedicated to veterans, law enforcement, military and first responders and is free and open to all riders no matter what kind of motorcycle or trike that they ride. The parade will also features bikes of every shape, color and design, including several antique and custom bikes that have graced the cover on national and international magazine publications,” noted a statement from the Rally organization.

Staging for the parade will begin at Fort Smith Park at 4 p.m. There will be a group photo at 4:40 p.m. at Fort Smith Park. Then at 5 p.m. riders will go ‘kickstands up” and head down Riverfront Drive (formerly Clayton Expressway) to downtown Fort Smith. Places to view the Steel Horse Rally Motorcycle Parade include Spectator’s Row at the Biker Vendor Village area, across from Pavilion along A Street.

Garrison Avenue through historic downtown Fort Smith will be another place to watch the motorcycle parade and take photos. Specifically, the area around Garrison and 10th Street will be a turning point on the parade route.

For safety reasons and to facilitate the parade, portions of streets and intersections near the parade route will be temporarily blocked, with that work coordinated b the Fort Smith Police Department and the Fort Smith Fire Department.

“Considering that this is the inaugural event we have no way to determine just what kind of participation to expect, so we have no idea how long the motorcycle procession will take and subsequent affected areas closed and re/routed. We ask that motorists in the general downtown areas be patient and plan ahead,” noted a memo from Daniel Grubbs, public affairs officer with the Fort Smith Police Department. (Link to the Steel Horse Rally website for traffic changes during the event.)

“We really appreciate all of the help from the Fort Smith Police Department, Fort Smith Fire Department and other city department,” Snow said. “This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of local sponsors and our dedicated team of Steel Horse Rally volunteers.”

Following is the event agenda.
Noon – gate open for live music at Harry E. Kelley Riverfront Park
3 p.m. – .357 (band)
5. p.m. – Trouble Makers (band)
7:30 p.m. – Scott Ellison (incredible blues artist)
9:30 p.m. – Back Road Anthem

9 a.m. – gates open
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. – Birds of Prey Exhibition by the Ark. Native Plant & Wildlife Center
Noon to 1:30 p.m. – Terri & the Executives (band)
2 p.m. – Vertical Groove
4 p.m. – Break for the Thunder Through the Valley Steel Horse Rally Motorcycle Parade
5 p.m. – Parade begins
6 p.m. – White Collar Sideshow (band)
7:30 p.m.  – 2015 Miss Steel Horse Rally Bikini Contest presented by Old Fort Harley-Davidson
8:30 p.m. – Steel Horse Rally All-Star Band
10:30 p.m. – Hillbilly Vegas