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Thousands of BMW motorcycle riders gather in Great Falls

Craig Johnson
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 20:10:46-04

GREAT FALLS — The 2021 BMW Motorcycle Owners of America national rally doesn't officially start until Thursday, June 24, but for the last several days, Montana ExpoPark has been filling up with bikes like this and tents as thousands of bikers from all across the country descended on Great Falls.

"These rallies are awesome. There's a lot of really outstanding people, a lot of fun people, people from just about every walk of life that have one thing in common. That's riding motorcycles and seeing the country and travel. It's good camaraderie,” said biker Gregory Orr.

Orr is from Wisconsin and was one of the many people camped out at the ExpoPark. "Tomorrow's going to be, I think, a riding day, maybe over to Glacier National (Park,)” said Orr.

Walking past the seemingly endless line of bikes at the ExpoPark, you'll see license plates from dozens of states - Georgia, Florida, Iowa, and Indiana just to name a few.

Craig Johnson is from Minnesota, and said there are several reasons he came to the rally. "The BMW crowd is a very good, very fun crowd to be around. The fact that it's here in Great Falls might've been right up there with that. We love it out here,” Johnson said.

Craig Johnson

Ted Moyer, director of BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, said the riding opportunities are what brought the rally to Great Falls and the commitment never wavered once the decision was made, not even last year's cancellation due to Covid.

"We were definitely coming back here. As long as the dates worked for the fairgrounds, we were going to come back and make this work. It's just too great of a place to pass up,” Moyer explained.

The Visit Great Falls, Montana Tourism agency estimated the rally could generate $2.5 million or more for the economy; that is based on how much money was spent by non-resident visitors to the city for all of 2019. Visit Great Falls, Montana Tourism director Rebecca Engum said the biggest stress leading up to the rally was trying to make sure everyone’s needs were met since many businesses weren’t operating at full capacity because of COVID until the last several weeks.

"We're really excited because we've partnered with local business owners to make sure those experiences can be had, make sure that the staffing is as adequate as it can be, knowing that there's not enough people, but provide the attendees with an experience that gets them familiar with Great Falls and excited about what they can do here every year,” Engum explained.

Great Falls tourism agency chief talks about motorcycle rally

She added that it could be a decade or more before the city has an opportunity to host the national rally again, as it moves around from year to year.

The event officially begins on Thursday, June 24, and runs through Sunday, June 27. The "rally point" at ExpoPark will feature numerous activities.

There will be a “Vintage Display," where owners and restorers Lee Deyoung and Jack Wells will lead a seminar on Friday morning at the Heritage Building, entitled “Restoration and Preservation of Vintage BMWs.” The exhibited bikes will be judged (strictly optional) Saturday morning starting at 9 a.m. The award ceremony will be Saturday afternoon at 1:30 at the Vintage Display location.

There will also be a "People's Choice Bike Show." Popular vote winners for each class will receive first, second and third place ribbons. One overall Best-in-Show award will be provided for the most popular bike. Photos will be taken of all the bikes and posted on a MOA-linked website after the Rally. Bikes will be lined-up according to classes no later than 9 a.m. on Saturday morning. All rally attendees are invited to come by to review the bikes and vote for Best-in-Class between 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Votes will then be counted, with awards handed out between 2:00 and 2:30 p.m.

Also on tap is Brewfest from 1-5pm on Friday in the Heritage Building. Montana breweries will treat MOA members to samples of their favorite beers. Brewmasters and people in the know from each brewery will be on hand to discuss the flavor, the process, and the general love for craft beer.

Here is a look at the general schedule:

THURSDAY - 24 JUNE

FRIDAY - 25 JUNE

  • 8 AM to 345 PM - Seminars - see the Seminar schedule
  • 11 AM to 2 PM - People's Choice Bike Show signup at the south entrance of the Pacific Steel Building
  • 1 to 5 PM - BREWFEST! (ticket required) in the Heritage Building
  • 7 to 1030 PM - Live music - see the Entertainment schedule

SATURDAY - 26 JUNE

  • 8 AM to 345 PM - Seminars - see the Seminar schedule
  • 8 to 9 AM - People's Choice Bike Show signup at the south entrance of the Pacific Steel Building
  • 9 AM to 1230 PM - Voting for People's Choice Bike Show awards at the south entrance of the Pacific Steel Building
  • 12 Noon - Final door prize drawing of the Rally in the Pacific Steel Building
  • 12 Noon - Rider awards presentations in the Pacific Steel Building
  • 12 Noon to 4 PM - Railroad Museum open
  • 1230 to 230 PM - People's Choice Bike Show awards at the south entrance of the Pacific Steel Building
  • 130 to 230 PM - Vintage Bike awards in the foyer of the Pacific Steel Building
  • 6 to 7 PM - Closing Ceremonies in the Grandstand
  • 730 to 1030 PM - Live music - see the Entertainment schedule

SUNDAY - 27 JUNE

  • 5 to 8 AM Free morning coffee in the Coffee Hut at Rally Central
  • 8 AM - Rally clean-up starts - volunteers welcome!
  • 8 AM to 12 Noon - Shipping available in the Expo Building

Visit the rally website for more information.