Americade rumbles Lake George in 40th anniversary year
LAKE GEORGE — For one week each year, for the past 40 years, the streets of Lake George are overtaken by bikers and motorcycle enthusiasts from all over the globe.
“Nice place,” said Roger Gagnon enthusiastically through a thick French-Canadian accent, “with a lot of beautiful motorcycles.”
This is the first jaunt to Americade for Gagnon and his partner Annie Thibeault, who rode their bikes down from Quebec City, Canada.
Gagnon said they have a lot of friends who ride down to Daytona Beach Bike Week in Florida, and his brother has attended the Sturgis Mortorcyle Rally in South Dakota, but this is the first rally he and Thibeault have attended. The two said they’ve very much enjoyed their time in the Adirondacks and hope to return with a group in the future.
“Maybe, with some friends, yes,” he said.
Gagnon and Thibeault will have plenty of opportunities to return to Lake George in the future as Americade doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after four decades of bike weeks, having missed only one year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just think the scenery here is beautiful. I’m sure it’s the Adirondacks,” said Gini Dutcher, who founded the bike rally in 1983 with her husband Bill Dutcher. “Lake George is a beautiful destination. Everybody who comes here can’t believe how beautiful it is.”
Dutcher recounted the idea to hold a bike rally in Lake George came after Bill quit his job in public relations with Harley-Davidson.
“He didn’t want to move to Milwaukee, so he quit. We owned a house in Lake George. My parents lived here, so we moved up here,” she said. “He had gone to a motorcycle rally called Aspencade in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and he said, ‘Why not do it out here?’ so that’s how we started it.”
That first year, Dutcher said, went better than anticipated, and Americade has continued to outperform year after year.
“It was phenomenal. We had 1,764 people registered (the first year), and about 3,000 people showed up,” she said. “It grew enormously. Every year it doubled.”
The reason for the event’s success, according to Dutcher, is that it fills a need for an underserved group of riders.
“In the East, people want to ride in the spring, so we gave them a destination,” she said.
It’s not just a boon to bikers in the East; Dutcher said a major factor in the success of the rally is the support it gets from the community, which in turn receives a healthy boost in pre-summer season sales during the bike week.
“We brought new money into the community. It’s not just recycled money,” she said. “The first year we had people thanking us for helping them pay their mortgage, because we did it on the shoulder season. … Some of the businesses weren’t even open at that time.”
Dutcher said they’d hosted Americade events in Estes Park, Colorado, and found that different parts of the county tend to attract different types of riders.
“The riders out there are different. They will put up with dirt roads, gravel roads,” she said. “I think beyond Chicago, the riders are different. It’s about the Wild West, and they’re out there to have a wild, good time, whereas here, we always sort of kept it a family-friendly rally.”
She said Americade tends to attract street riders for the most part, although there’s plenty of rugged adventure rides to be found in the Adirondacks.
The Americade Motorcycle Rally is a celebration of all things moto-centric. From the gear to the accessories to the apparel, and of course the bikes, everything revolves around the community and the joy of the ride.
“I believe it’s just for all brands, all motorcycle tours,” Dutcher said. “My husband and I have done it now half our lives. We have people who have been here every year for 40 years, so it’s a dedicated group. It’s not a flash in the pan.”