Motorcycle cachet

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Motorcycles are emerging as a hot concept for events as more upscale adults pursue lives as professionals by day and bikers on the weekends.

The trend is hitting Las Vegas, site of next fall's Las Vegas International Bike Festival & Expo 2000. The event, slated for Oct. 12-15, is expected to draw thousands to the city.

The goal is to attract well-heeled consumers to Las Vegas to fill its hotel rooms, as well as create entertainment and activities for general visitors. Market research shows the time is ripe for an event celebrating motorcycles, which have emerged as a symbol of individualism, adventure and self-expression among 30-to-50-year-olds.


Underscoring this research is the success of a traveling art exhibit consisting of motorcycles. The Guggenheim Museum's "The Art of the Motorcycle" was introduced in 1998 in New York and broke all attendance records during its run there. The exhibit's visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has been extended by several months and is drawing international crowds.

Back in Las Vegas, a similar breed of motorcycle enthusiasts -- who are "not your hog riders who want to camp out in the dirt, but more your upscale crowd" -- is expected to attend the admission-only festival, said Paul Barrow, one of three co-directors of the event, which is being organized by Vegas-based BGT Productions.

The motorcycle fest also is serving as a fund-raiser for a new organization called Bike Aid USA, led by singer David Cassidy, to raise money for children's causes.

Unlike rallies organized by Harley-Davidson and other motorcycle marketers, the Las Vegas event won't be endorsed by any specific manufacturer, in order to attract as broad an audience as possible, Mr. Barrow said.

To attract families, the fest will include diverse activities including motorcycle races, demonstrations, displays of historic cycles and stunts. The event is negotiating for an appearance by the Kangaroo Kid, an Australian stunt cyclist. The Bike Festival will be held a few miles outside Las Vegas on a 100,000-acre area with a motorcycle track.

Also included will be safe test-riding areas for people to try out motorcycles and meet with expert riders and marketers.

"We're setting up an `Olympic Village' type of operation where people can immerse themselves in the experience of motorcycles in a huge area that will be very safe, offering upscale food and amenities for a very professional, well-heeled crowd," Mr. Barrow said.

A concert for 50,000 people is planned with top-name entertainment.

Sponsors currently in discussions for on-site participation include Anheuser-Busch, Brown-Forman Corp.'s Jack Daniel's, Cox Communications, Daimler-Chrysler and Texaco, say the event's organizers.


"This is a lifestyle event targeting people of an average age of around 44 who have high incomes and see themselves not as outlaws but weekend warriors. Monday through Friday they wear business suits, but on the weekends they wear leather and ride bikes that tend to cost an average of $25,000 each," said Kerry Dunne, president of the Sports Group, Phoenix, which is handling sponsorship sales.

Admission prices to the event haven't been finalized.

"More and more, Las Vegas is attracting events that draw people . . . and worldwide attention. We're confident the Bike Festival is destined to be all of these rolled into one," said Kirk Hendrix, president of Las Vegas Events, a non-profit group that's helping put together the bike fest. Mr. Hendrix's organization is increasingly playing a hand in helping develop events handled by a variety of event marketing companies and agencies.

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