History of Laconia Motorcycle Week | 1967 – Present
Following the Weirs Beach riot of 1965 and its consequent, “No Rally” year of 1966, the rally turned into a very scaled-down event. For the next 24 years, the rally was known simply as “Motorcycle Weekend” to locals. There was little to no promotion of the event, and it was attended by a very regional crowd. Hence, the reason for this webpage’s missing historical materials for many of those intervening years. There were very few printed materials or souvenirs produced.
The AMA’s monthly magazine, which covered and promoted the Laconia rally in every May and/or June issue from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, went mostly silent about Laconia, with Laconia coverage appearing only in the 1979 and 1983 issues, articles which are shown below. In 1970, the magazine was no longer American Motorcycling, it became the AMA News. In September, 1977, the magazine was renamed once again. This time it was called American Motorcyclist, the name with which it has continued to the present day.
An article from Motorcyclist magazine – not from the official guidebook
1976 – 1980
Program covers for the “Laconia Motorcycle Classic”
Two color slides of the Lakeside Avenue action
LOUDON: Motorcycling’s oldest road race celebrates its 60th anniversary. Article by Randy Warren in the June, 1983 issue of American Motorcyclist.
Around here on a quiet morning, you sit in the lazy sunshine. Not much traffic passes through the little town. Some vacationers stroll by. Down at Brent’s Market, the people from the local playhouse have sensed something in the air. “About
Belknap Cup/Race Tickets
In 1992, the vintage race was called the “Belknap Cup” and did not coincide with Motorcycle Week. It is now called the “U.S. Vintage Motorcycle Grand Prix” and occurs on Monday of Motorcycle Week.
This collection of old race tickets shows that from 1947 through June 1952 the Gypsy Tour races were billed as taking place at the Belknap Recreation Area in Gilford, but from September 1952 through 1957 the races were billed as taking place at the Recreation Area in Laconia. Apparently, for bikers, the Gypsy Tour took place in Laconia, so the race organizers decided for marketing purposes to associate the race with Laconia, even though the race actually took place in Gilford.
After reaching a low point in the mid 1970’s, the rally gradually rebounded in the 1980’s as memories of the earlier troubles began to fade and the economy turned upward. But the rally was nowhere near its potential, perhaps due to the lack of an official organizer. In 1991, a new organized effort began, spearheaded by Charlie St. Clair, currently executive director of the Laconia Motorycycle Week Association.
The effort included several bold moves. Among them were restricting traffic and parking on Lakeside Avenue to Motorcycles only, which began in 1993; new traffic patterns to smooth the traffic flow; lengthening the rally from a weekend-only event back to a full week (the length the rally had been in the 1950’s); scheduling many new events; and reviving the publication of an official guidebook and widely increasing its distribution. The bold moves paid off, increasing rally attendance from around 50,000 Motorcyclists in 1990 to over 350,000 today.
LENGTH IN DAYS
An informal gathering of about 150 riders at Weirs Beach precedes the 1st officially sanctioned “Gypsy Tour”
|*In 1918, the National Gypsy Tour occurred on Saturday & Sunday, June 15-16; but in Laconia, the Bay State Motorcycle Club (see the photo above), did not drive up until Sunday, and returned on Monday.|
|* National Tour Date; Laconia date unknown.|
|* National Tour Date; Laconia date unknown.|
|1953||June 19-21||33rd||3 (or 7**)||Fri-Sun|
|1955||June 17-19||35th||3 (or 7**)||Fri-Sun|
What is the rule for determining future Motorcycle Week dates?
There is a popular misconception that Motorcycle Week always ends on Father’s Day weekend. While this is generally true, it is not always the case. Since the event became a two-weekend event, the actual rule for determining Motorcycle Week dates is as follows:
Motorcycle Week always begins on the second FULL weekend of June.
In years when June 1st lands on a Sunday, the weekend of May 31-June 1 is not a full weekend, but the weekend of June 7-8 is, so the event will start a week later than normal, resulting in Motorcycle Week beginning on Father’s Day weekend rather than ending with it. When June 1st lands on any day other than Sunday, Motorcycle Week will end on Father’s Day weekend, as usual.
In recent years, in 2008 and 2014, June 1st was on a Sunday, and the event started on Father’s Day weekend. (In 2003, June 1st was also on a Sunday, but the event ended on Father’s Day weekend. However, the event began so early in June there were complaints, so the new rule came into effect.)
1988 & 1989
(Gypsy Tour Patches). In 1988-89 the Laconia Rally was known as Motorcycle Weekend. These were nearly the last years before the Rally resumed to a full week-long event.
This 75th anniversary buckle reads “LACONIA – Among America’s longest running motorcycle events, the Laconia Rally celebrates its 75th running in 1998. The original social gathering of Bay State MC riders and New Hampshire Motorcyclists in 1916 and their destination of Weir Beach on Lake Winnipesaukee near Laconia was complemented later by motorcycle racing at various nearby locations. Frizie Baer and the New Hampshire Motorcycle Dealers Association brought the racing to Belknap Recreation Area in 1938. In 1965 Bryar Motorsports Park, known today as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, hosted its first AMA Grand National Road Race. And that tradition continues today as Motorcyclists gather annually to take in the eclectic collage of AMA Superbike Series and the legendary Laconia rally, hosted by the AMA Chartered Lakeside Sharks Motorcycle Club.”