Holiday

Rollin' down the highway

Red River welcomes thousands of bikers for annual Memorial Day weekend run

By T.L. Testerman
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/24/18

Warm summer days, a frosty beer, and the sweet alpine breeze blowing through your hair. Red River has always been a sanctuary for bikers from all over the world with its friendly …

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Holiday

Rollin' down the highway

Red River welcomes thousands of bikers for annual Memorial Day weekend run

Posted

Warm summer days, a frosty beer, and the sweet alpine breeze blowing through your hair. Red River has always been a sanctuary for bikers from all over the world with its friendly pubs and people, and its breathtaking scenery.

On Memorial Day Weekend, today through Monday (May 24-28), Red River will pay tribute to fallen U.S. military personnel as it has for 36 years with the rumble of thousands of shiny motorcycles along Main Street.

Be aware there are some fire restrictions recently enacted to address present drought conditions. See link at the end of this story for details.

The annual Red River Memorial Day Motorcycle Rally will feature live music at venues all over town, side by side with vendors supplying "everything from leather and lace to food and fun." Ellen Gay who works at the Red River Tourism office advises all bikers to "make sure you ride the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway while you're here -- an 83-mile loop through Northern New Mexico's most beautiful scenery. Monday morning everyone heads out together to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire."

No registration is required. The number of participants expected this year is close to 20,000. Highlights of the weekend include The American Veterans Traveling Tribute Vietnam Memorial Wall open daily until 8 pm. The Busted Knuckles Stunt Tour and American Daredevils will return this year and perform at 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (May 26-27).

Although no formal discount specials are offered, The Motherlode Saloon at 406 East Main Street and The Bull O' The Woods Saloon, across the street at 401 East Main, will have live music throughout the rally. The Motherlode will have several traditionally biker-themed contests and giveaways. "While this event historically was a draw for biker clubs," Gay said, "we are now finding that many veteran biker groups are attending, and with the addition of some family-geared activities, our number of families is increasing rapidly."

Red River is a hot spot in the summer for artists and musicians drawn to the cooler mountain temperatures. A natural affinity between residents and bikers developed with a bit of a push from a local businessman. Since 1983 the town hosts the motorcycle rally designed to kick the summer into high gear.

The story behind the event, according to town historian Fritz Davis, is that local businessman Lester Lewis decided the best way to attract motorcycles and tourism to the town was to throw a big party with music and food. He did his homework for the event by visiting a bike gathering in Ruidoso. Afterward, he invited a group of Honda Gold Wing riders to come to town over the Memorial Day weekend.

A few dozen bikers showed up the first year.

In 1984, the owner of Rocky Mountain Harley Davidson in Colorado heard rumors of a bike run in Red River and showed up on Memorial Day. He liked the town and soon circulated word that the little town in the beautiful valley of Northern New Mexico was a great place to visit.

Harley riders attended in greater numbers, and Gold Wing riders went elsewhere. It was called the "run" in the days before the term "rally" took its place. Thousands of riders have attended, with a record number of 20,000-plus following a write-up in a 1999 issue of Cycle Magazine.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday designated for remembering marines, soldiers, airmen and sailors who died while serving in the nation's armed forces. One highlight of the weekend's festivities happens Saturday (May 26) at 11 a.m. It is a special ceremony in Brandenburg Park to honor veterans. The event is sponsored by the Taos VFW Post 3259 and the town of Red River.

Every day, starting Friday (May 25), the American Veterans Traveling Tribute from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. will be displayed. AVTT is a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Visitors can make trace etchings of names from the wall as one would be able to at the real wall in the nation's capitol.

Other notable events over the weekend include today's (May 24), 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. free brisket dinner for veterans, first responders, law enforcement and vendors at The Motherlode Saloon. Also, Saturday (May 26) a color guard ceremony with a flag presentation and a national anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and flag retirement ceremony with a 21-gun salute and taps at Brandenburg Park will be held.

Lastly, the annual flag march to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park is Monday, Memorial Day (May 28), at 9 p.m. The march will begin at the intersection of U.S. 64 and State Road 434 and will proceed up the hill to the memorial located near Angel Fire. The public is invited to participate.

The memorial, incidentally, became a New Mexico state park in 2005. Last year, it was transferred to the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit the event's website: redriver.org/events/annual-events/memorial-day-motorcycle-rally or call the Red River Office of Tourism at (575) 754-1708.

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