Jake Levin and Mike Manzoni-nbcboston.com
The nation’s oldest motorcycle rally will be held again in New Hampshire this weekend, but this year’s event will look quite different amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to organizers of Laconia Motorcycle Week, attendance is expected to be lower at this year’s event due to measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Union Leader reports.
“This year, it’s a lot different,” said Darren Keough of Bristol, New Hampshire.
Originally scheduled for June, the event, which kicks off on Saturday, will have an increased police presence in order to ensure activities are taking place in a safe manner. This will especially apply to The Weirs section of Laconia, described as the epicenter of the event.
“We haven’t really noticed the bikers coming in yet,” Tilton resident Nancy Merceau said Friday.
The New Hampshire Liquor Commission will also have a high profile presence. The commission has already met with all 65 establishments within Laconia that are permitted to sell alcohol to go over safety guidelines.
Other precautions are also in place like social distancing markers all over the sidewalks and several bars closed on Lakeside Avenue.
“It’ll never be the same,” Keough said. “Alcohol and motorcycles? You know what I mean?”
Many restaurants, however, still plan to be open. Chris Clark, who co-owns the Crazy Gringo, said he could use the extra business after a brutal year due to the pandemic.
“Of course, we lost June, which is a shame,” Clark said.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota wrapped up Aug. 16, drawing more than 460,000 riders. A coronavirus case linked to the rally appeared in Nebraska on Thursday.
And while Gov. Chris Sununu put in place a couple of weeks ago a mask mandate for gatherings of 100 people or more, most bikers said they don’t mind wearing face coverings.
“After looking on Facebook and seeing what they’re saying about Sturgis and the crowds and the comments, it’s sad. It’s a sad day,” Clark said