Sweet Home Arkansas

Sweet Home Arkansas

Communities climb on to rev up rally ride


This is just Tommy Sisemore’s third year at the helm of Bikes, Blues & BBQ, but he’s an old hand at keeping the motorcycle rally a community occasion. A former Springdale police officer, he’s been coordinating security for the annual event since 2006.

“I think it’s grown exactly how the forefathers thought it would,” he says of the 19-year-old rally. “It was framed as family friendly, and we’ve done a good job of staying true to those roots.”

Although he might wish he had more hours in the day and more hands on the task — he’s one of only two paid rally employees — Sisemore says most of his job is as smooth as a cruise through the Ozarks.

“We call it ‘playing dress-up’ around here,” he says, laughing. “We don’t expect the Hell’s Angels to coming riding in to town.”

In 2015, Sisemore says, the University of Arkansas undertook a study of the average Bikes, Blues & BBQ patron and found he was 35 to 58 years old with a median income of $85,000. “You sit out at the fairgrounds, and you see a quarter of a million dollar RV roll in pulling a $30,000 trailer hauling a $40,000 bike. Those are not ‘bikers.’ Those are ‘hobbyists.’ It’s a high-dollar hobby.”

Bikes, Blues & BBQ is now the No. 2 rally in the nation, Sisemore adds, second only to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota and surpassing Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla. The reason is simple, he believes.

“Once you’ve ridden the beach once, you can’t make it any more fun. We have 12 to 15 rides here that are among the top 100 nationally. There’s nowhere else you can get that. Sturgis is beautiful, and people will keep going there. But we’re also the world’s largest charity motorcycle rally — and at the end of the day, people want to feel like they’re doing something good.”

Over the life of the rally, more than $2 million has been donated to local charities, Sisemore says, with more than 40 charities benefiting last year. “Not bad for a little rally that started out to fund Meals on Wheels,” he says.

Now, he says, it’s up to him and the Bikes, Blues & BBQ volunteers to keep finding new ways to attract both visitors and locals to the rally. As “an old rodeo guy,” the idea of a bull riding event appealed to Sisemore, and this year, he’s added one to the Thursday evening schedule at the Washington County Fairgrounds. Produced by Amped Up Pro Bull Tour, the competition plans “to buck anywhere from 40 to 50 bulls.”

He’s also proud that other local organizations have chosen to wrap events around Bikes, Blues & BBQ. The Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion will present rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd on Sept. 28; Main Street Rogers will host Bikes on the Bricks with live music on Sept. 28 and a vintage motorcycle show on Sept. 29; and the Arkansas Air and Military Museum will bring in vintage planes.

“Of course, one of my favorite things about the rally is the Parade of Power,” Sisemore says. Rolling this year from the Washington County Fairgrounds to Dickson Street at 3 p.m. Sept. 29, “it’s not something you see anywhere else,” he says. “It’s pretty phenomenal.”

No job is without challenges, and Sisemore says he’s weathered his share, including uproar over vendors selling merchandise perceived as Nazi-related.

“We immediately removed that, and they were not allowed to come back,” Sisemore says. Now, he hires an off-duty law enforcement officer to inspect the vendors’ merchandise every day, looking for anything “lewd or offensive” and for any trademark infringement. He’s adamant about “protecting the image of our rally.”

“It’s a local event that puts a lot of money into charities and into the tax base,” he says, “and we want to make sure there’s nothing going on you wouldn’t want to see as a resident or a parent.”

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Raina Schnetzinger, 4 and Jennifer Schnetzinger of Springdale walk around the car show at the Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR on Saturday, September 23, 2017. The Arvest Ballpark hosted the Bikes, Blues and BBQ car show

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Dave Kemp of Kansas City, MO. puts a helmet on Kellan Hale, 4 of Fayetteville during a parade on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, AR on Saturday, September 23, 2017. Bikes, Blues & BBQ held their annual Parade of Power

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Motorcyclists ride Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, along Dickson Street during the 18th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the rally.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Kevin and Kelly Long of Lowell ride east on Dickson Street Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, during the 18th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the rally.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/CHARLIE KAIJO Carol Fizer of Odessa, MO. gets ready to depart for Eureka Springs in Downtown Rogers in Rogers, AR on Thursday, September 21, 2017. The Rogers Downtown Partners, which is the local merchants association, is hosting a Bikes, Blues & BBQ event for the first time. It will be the first year they will have a free guided ride called Bikes on the Bricks. Riders started in Fayetteville at the Foghorns parking lot, then to downtown Rogers for lunch and shopping and finally to their final destination in Eureka Springs.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
David Breeding of Bella Vista takes a selfie with friend Rique Martinez of Erie Colo., near their motorcycle Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, before they set out to enjoy the 18th annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ Motorcycle Rally in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs of the event, which continues through today.



Bikes, Blues & BBQ

No. 19

WHEN — Sept. 26-29

WHERE — Dickson Street, Walton Arts Center Plaza, Washington County Fairgrounds, Baum Stadium, Fayetteville Town Center, all in Fayetteville; Arvest Ballpark in Springdale

COST — Most events are free; VIP info on event website

INFO — bikesbluesandbbq.org



Bikes, Blues & BBQ


Sept. 28

3 p.m. — Gary Hutchison, Main Stage

4:30 p.m. — Vintage Pistol, Main Stage

6 p.m. — Boston Mountain Playboys, Fairgrounds

6 p.m. — Leah & the Mojo Doctors, Main Stage

7:30 p.m. — Nace Brothers, Main Stage

9 p.m. — Goose, Main Stage

10:45 p.m. — Jason D. Williams, Main Stage

Sept. 29

2 p.m. — Dr. Nola & The Soul Shakers, Main Stage

4:30 p.m. — Oreo Blue, Main Stage

5:30 p.m. — Maud Crawford, Fairgrounds

6:30 p.m. — Fayetteville Funk Factory, Main Stage

8 p.m. — Heath Sanders, Fairgrounds

8:30 p.m. — The Mixtapes, Main Stage

10:30 p.m. — Dead Metal Society, Main Stage

10:30 p.m. — Odd Key Party, Fairgrounds



Bikes, Blues & BBQ

Everything Else

Sept. 28

8 a.m. — Baum Motorcycle Village opens

9 a.m. — Ink & Art in the Ozarks opens, Town Center

10 a.m. — Helicopter rides, Baum Stadium

Noon — Helicopter rides, Fairgrounds

6 p.m. — Monster Party Patio, WAC

6:30 p.m. — People’s Choice, Arkansas State BBQ Championship, Fairgrounds ($12)

8 p.m. — Miss BBB Preliminary, Fairgrounds

Sept. 29

8 a.m. — Baum Motorcycle Village opens

8 a.m. — Car Show, Arvest Ballpark

8 a.m. — Helicopter rides, Arvest Ballpark

9 a.m. — Helicopter rides, Baum Stadium

9 a.m. — Ink & Art in the Ozarks opens, Town Center

9 a.m. — Kids Q, a barbecue competition for kids, Fairgrounds

Noon — Monster Party Patio, WAC

1 p.m. — Karaoke contest, Fairgrounds

3 p.m. — Parade of Power, Fairgrounds to Dickson Street

10 p.m. — Miss BBB Finals, Fairgrounds

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