Fall is finally here and with it brings cooler weather, beautiful fall foliage, and one of the nation’s largest motorcycle rallies, Bikes, Blues and BBQ. Every year the rally draws hundreds of thousands of bike enthusiasts from all over the country to Fayetteville. The live music, family-friendly events, and championship barbeque promise a good time, but what makes this rally special is that it is a rally with a purpose. Each year Bikes, Blues and BBQ is staffed and supported by hundreds of dedicated and hardworking people who donate their time and energy trying to ensure that the experience is enjoyed by every attendee while at the same time raising money for charities all over NWA.
Local organizations take full advantage of the opportunity that the rally brings, to be able to raise funds and awareness for their cause and most often its NWA’s youth that benefit the most. From the Fayetteville Boys and Girls Club to Big Brothers and Big Sisters of NWA, this rally with a purpose brings hope and opportunity to the children in our communities. The Arkansas Firefighters Association has participated in the rally for the past 11 years by hosting the annual Bikes, Blues and BBQ poker run, a crowd favorite event that offers two chances to have fun riding the open roads of Arkansas, win big and support the AFA sponsored, Camp Sunshine, a four day retreat for pediatric burn survivors.
Founded in 1991 and set at scenic Camp Aldersgate Little Rock, the 120 acre wooded property includes a lake for canoeing and fishing, two zip line adventure courses, a tree house, two pools, an archery pavilion, and a Commons Center, which becomes the center of activity for Camp Sunshine. The goal of the camp is to promote physical and emotional healing as well as growth and development of burned children. Camp Sunshine, has given an opportunity for burn survivors across the state to establish lasting friendships, experience personal growth and develop life-long memories. “I have been attending Camp Sunshine for years and I am proud to say it has been the best time of every year!” said Rocky Barnett, “Every moment you spend at Camp is a remarkable experience never a dull moment! Camp Sunshine has helped me so much throughout my life and I spend the other 361 days of the year looking forward to going back!” There are over 50 participates, like Bobby, who visit Camp Sunshine every year and it is completely free thanks to the AFA and their charity work.
Children of all ages and situations need the opportunity to participate in recreational activities that not only help them to develop physically, socially and emotionally but also provide a safe and supportive environment for youth to explore their strengths and grow self-esteem by being a part of a team.
Pagnozzi Charities is a non-profit organization that grants sports scholarships to disadvantaged children in NWA grades K-8. With their help over 1,800 youth have received sports scholarships. “We help with sports registration fees, equipment, tickets to Naturals and Razorback games, etc.” says Executive Director, Kelly Atchley. The program provides the children with an open door to the same athletic experiences as their peers by following the Pagnozzi motto to “level the playing field”.
The charity hosts several events throughout the year to support its mission and raise awareness for its youth scholarship fund including raffling off a motorcycle each year at Bikes, Blues and BBQ which is also graciously donated by Pig Trail Harley-Davidson and Cycle Connection Harley-Davidson.
As you would imagine, with a crowd of over 400,000 there is bound to be a lot of trash and somebody has to pick it up, and for the last 10 years that has been Bobby Luttrell, along with the Kiwanis group, who has helped organize volunteer groups with the daunting task of trash maintenance and cleanup of Dickson Street and surrounding areas during and after the rally.
They dedicate their time and effort to help support the youth in our community. “This is all to help NWA, because all the profits we make from cleaning up after the rally stay here” said Luttrell. Every cent the Kiwanis club makes, not only during Bikes, Blues and BBQ but all year long, is donated to help out the children of NWA. Groups like the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the Youth Excellence Award Program, Trikes for Tykes and Read First Leap Ahead all benefit from the hard work put into keeping the town clean and trash free.
While it’s the kids who are benefiting from the rally, they are also lending a hand, for the last five years the FHS band has been assisting with the cleanup, by showing up as early as 2 a.m. Sunday morning to begin rounding up garbage, all in efforts to raise funds for expenses and their yearly band trip. In 2006 they were able to raise $8000 to help them get to the Rose Bowl in California and this year the band will be performing in a televised parade in Philadelphia all of which is paid for by the hard work of the students and the generous donations made to the band.
From the very beginning, the founders of Bikes, Blues and BBQ knew that the festival would be a great success, but they also knew it could be something much more. By holding the rally to a higher standard and creating a greater purpose it has affected the entire community in a way that is unimaginable. For more information about Bikes, Blues and BBQ visit http://www.bikesbluesandbbq.org/