By: Ed Cleary
The first annual Bull City Motorcycle Rally, sponsored by Raging Bull Harley-Davidson, took place in downtown Durham over the weekend of April 13th and 14th. Despite Mother Nature’s best efforts to rain it out, and the tragic gas leak explosion just days prior, the event was a resounding success. Like all rally’s there were many merchandise vendors selling everything from patches and accessories to food and drink. Many of the local businesses in the area also got into the spirit and offered sales and specials.
One of the highlights of the rally was the Bull City H.O.G.’s annual bike show. Hank Thilbodeau, owner of Widowmaker Custom Design & Repair in Rougemont, took the Best in Show award for his stunning “Hazy Thoughts” creation. Hank graciously donated his winnings back to the event charities. The H.O.G. bike show was sponsored by Bob Karney and the Karney Law Firm.
Unbeknownst to the casual attendee is the months of work, planning and money that is required to make an event like this happen. In addition to all the city permitting fees, local business owners who might be affected by the street closures also had to sign off on the event. Little things that we take for granted also had to be addressed. Volunteers from the dealership and the Bull City H.O.G. chapter had to be crowd control certified. Barricades, portable rest room facilities, EMS and other first responders had to be arranged.
Then there was the entertainment. Two days of live music required the rental of a portable stage, generators, PA system, and the skilled worker to attend to them. And despite the best planning there are the unforeseen circumstances that must be dealt with. On April 10th, 2019, a gas explosion occurred less than a block away from the rally site at the 115 block of North Duke Street in the Brightleaf District. The blast destroyed several buildings and damaged dozens of others, killing two persons and injuring 25 others, including 9 firefighters. City officials have cited a gas leak to be the cause of the blast. Rally organizers quickly shifted the focus of the event from charity fund raiser to “day of healing” for the city. Moneys raised during the weekend were divided between the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and the charitable entities connected to the Durham gas explosion recovery efforts.
Ed Compton, the General Manager of Raging Bull summarized the weekend with the following statement; "The various vendors made the rally a family-friendly event. The bands were amazing. The area business teams were friendly, vibrant and offered great service. The positive feedback we have received from everyone afterward motivates us to organize and host the Bull City Bike Rally again next year. Vendors, attendees, local businesses, and City of Durham Team Members graciously offered some great takeaway ideas to help make it an even bigger and better event next year."
Ed also expressed special kudos to the key sponsors and/or contributors: City of Durham, Brightleaf Square, Discover Durham, The Cloud Brewery, Mavericks BBQ, Devine’s Sports Bar, James Joyce Irish Pub, Federal, Other End of the Leash, Solis Apartments, Social Games and Brews, Skewers, Shooters Bar, Bob Karney – The Carolinas’ Biker Lawyer, the Bull City HOG Chapter, the many vendors from various parts of the country, and the Raging Bull Harley-Davidson Team.