Motorcycle enthusiasts who felt cheated by their Friday the 13th experience in September received an early and unexpected Christmas present last Friday.
The run-up to Christmas can be gloomy but this Friday the 13th in Port Dover was actually on the balmy side with prolonged periods of sunshine.
Thus did Norfolk County resonate with the thunder of motorcycles as hundreds of bikers made the ritual pilgrimage to the lakeside community on this, the unluckiest day on the calendar.
“It’s been good for us,” said David Oliver, who was doing a brisk trade selling Dogs’ Nest hats and shirts near the Elmer Lewis Parkette.
“There’s been a lot of interest and a lot of people buying. We consider this a successful day.”
No matter how good the weather, Friday the 13th rallies in December will never rival those in June, July, August and September. Many regulars time their vacations to coincide with these dates, so attendance will always be higher.
As well — by December — most riders have put their motorcycles in storage. But those who had their bikes handy and who know how to dress for the weather were raring to go.
“I would’ve been here even if it were minus 5, minus 10,” said Kenton Janzen of Niagara Region.
“Just so long as there is no snow on the road. Friday the 13th is a great excuse for a ride. Hopefully, they’ll keep the road open like this for the next rally. The way they blocked off Main Street last time took away from the event.”
Port Dover was busy Friday but the crowd was more than manageable. Most everyone was in a good mood – in part – because they weren’t packed like livestock shoulder-to-shoulder in the sweaty heat.
Bill Cridland, Norfolk’s general manager of community services, said this week that the county will keep an eye on Friday’s event and send in staff to empty trash cans or set up barricades if traffic becomes a problem.
“History shows we don’t get a lot of folks, but we get some folks,” Cridland said.
“We don’t look for trouble, but we stay close. We know it will be short term with low numbers.”
When asked about Friday’s event, many commented that it felt like old times. Unlike the new and improved Friday the 13th in September, motorcycles were lined up along Main Street, providing visitors an opportunity to check them out and admire them in familiar surroundings.
“It’s better than the last one,” said Alex Bodnar of Waterford, who shared his criticisms of the September rally at a special meeting of Norfolk council this week.
“It’s the lack of a police presence.”
Police were in evidence Friday, just not in the numbers seen during a managed event. There was no OPP helicopter over head or OPP boats cruising in the harbour.
The big difference in September was the creation of a barricaded pedestrian mall spanning three blocks of Main Street. For the first time in the 38-year history of the event, pedestrians and motorcycles weren’t allowed to mingle downtown. Many observed that this drained the energy from the event.
“What amazed me is the first responders saying the big crowds were making for longer response times,” said Jay Birkett of Brantford. “But even in the little quads they were driving around, everyone knew enough to get out of their way.”
Lisa Glover of Toronto enjoyed the mood in Port Dover Friday. She hopes the powers-that-be find a way replicate it at future rallies, the next of which is in March.
“You know what they say,” Glover said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”