Sturgis North – Much More Than Just a Biker Party

Sturgis North, an all make motorcycle festival held in Salmon Arm this past week, has wound down and the community is going back to its usual day to day life, with only the odd straggling motorcycle still rumbling its way through town. The festival pre-planning went through a lot of scrutiny before finally being allowed, by the Salmon Arm community, to proceed. Members of  the community feared their personal, preconceived, images of out of control outlaw motorcycle gangs, the streets being littered with trash while the otherwise quiet community was being torn apart in a noisy uproar of drunken bikers.

The festival organizers worked hard to prove their worth, and ensure the community that both the event and themselves would be both safe and profitable.Judging from what I have personally witnessed it did just that.

With two festival grounds, connected by shuttle buses ensuring safe passage to and from the venues, the organizers presented all aspects of the motorcycle culture for those that undertook the events. From high profile musical artists such as Dr. Hook, The Headpins, and many more, to a motorcycle build off showcasing some of the top custom bike builders in North America, nothing was left out.  Plenty of riders took part in poker runs and charity rides as lines of bikes would cruise through the Okanagan and Shuswap areas raising money for their selected charities from breast cancer to childrens charities. Even the threat of rain didn’t lighten the mood, some would huddle under overhangs waiting for it to pass while others would shrug it off as nothing more than refreshing water and continue with their activities.

For those that couldn’t afford the $100+ a day or, slightly cheaper, week long passes into the festival itself there was plenty of opportunities for families to get around the community and partake in the biker customs. Show and shines offered a glimpse into the passion and art involved in the bike world, from crazy customizations to elaberate paint jobs and restorations, true craftsmanship was abundant throughout the week. Canadian motorcross performer Kris Garwasiuk displayed his high jumping acts, both on the festival grounds and on the closed off streets, where hundreds of attendees of all ages where wow’d by his death defying tricks. Music wasn’t just for the paying attendees as it was offered throughout the day on the community stage, often filling empty spots by showcasing the natural musicianship that is abundant in the Salmon Arm area. Vancouvers West Coast Freestyle offered a glimpse into the world of professional stunt riding as they showed off their perfected skills in controlling their bikes while doing off the wall tricks, often with only one wheel on the pavement.  The announcer making sure to inform those watching that these took years of practice and should never be attempted in the streets.

As I wandered through the events on a day to day basis, trying to figure out just what events to cover in this story, I watched as crowds of people would gather taking in something they may have never witnessed before.  Many children, from all walks of life, gleaming with smiles, perhaps day dreaming of one day owning and riding a motorcycle themselves, parents/grandparents, guardians, aunts and uncles sharing with them in those dreams. I observed friends, neighbours, complete strangers conversing, laughing, and just plain enjoying the happenings around them. I chuckled as an aging, burly looking biker joined my one year old nephew in some puddle jumping, as his 30 something year old son proudly piped out “That’s my dad”.

Perhaps, with the success and the excitement that was abundant throughout the town, Sturgis North may have re-painted, for some, those pre-drawn images of what the biker world was about and opened the eyes, for many, on the community lifestyle and comradeship that is involved in motorcycle culture.  Maybe now the few bad apples, that are found in every culture won’t be the image that is associated with the word “Biker”. For the rest of us the week was a true success, it had its small hic-ups here and there but a success none the less, and I lift my hat to the organizers, the volunteers, and those who policed the event, on a job well done in your offering of just a glimpse at the true spirit of the motorcycle world.

Check out Sturgis Norths Facebook page, or the website linked at the top of this article for more images and information.


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