The annual Leesburg Bikefest starts today for Early Arrivals, then continues through the weekend.
LEESBURG – It remains one of the biggest weekend events, not just in Lake County, but across Central Florida – and it all starts today.
“We’re real excited, because the word on the street is the Leesburg Bikefest is the place to be,’’ said Rachel O’Ryan, media spokesperson for the annual event. “At one time or another, they have called and said ‘I hope you guys are expecting record crowds, because you are the place to be.’ We can’t wait for people to start riding in.”
Thousands of motorcyclists are expected to start crossing through Central Florida today, on route to Leesburg, as the 16th Annual Leesburg Bikefest kicks off on Friday and continues through Sunday.
Billed as the world’s largest three-day Motorcycle Rally and Music Event, and held in historic downtown Leesburg, the entertainment actually begins today at Gator Harley Davidson Dealership and Jesse Black Saloon for the Early Arrivals Party. Both Gator and Jesse open their doors at 9 a.m., while in downtown Leesburg, the Rat’s Hole Bar and Opera House Saloon opens at 3 p.m.
“They’re setting up quite a bit at Gator Harley Davidson and Jesse Black Saloon as we speak,” O’Ryan said on Wednesday afternoon. ‘’The party starts early there. In downtown Leesburg, we don’t kick off until 3 o’clock for the early birds, so we’ll still work all night long to get things put together. Then on Friday morning, people will start riding in.”
The event runs on Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m., and then on Sunday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
It promises to be a very crowded weekend in Leesburg – and a big boost to the regional economy.
“The economic impact in Lake County is big,” O’Ryan said. “I couldn’t even give you a number, but we don’t have any available hotels, or a bed and breakfast, or any campgrounds. All of the neighboring counties our size, they’re very much excited about the traffic that we bring in, so from campground to campground and hotel to hotel, they are full. That’s not to mention what this brings to all the restaurants in the area.”
There will also be plenty of local business vendors at the event, providing another great opportunity for Lake County’s companies, said Jan Wideman, the Bikefest vendor coordinator.
“Bikefest is an excellent opportunity for the local business community to promote their professional service,” Wideman said. “You don’t have to sell leather and motorcycle accessories to be a successful vendor at Leesburg Bikefest.”
This year, there’s going to be the option of watching the party in Towne Square as the never ending parade of bikes make their way down Main Street. An online simulcast on starts on Friday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday at 5 p.m. Just by logging onto and clicking on the “Catch it Live” link, anyone can watch it from their home or office.
For those who plan to attend, LakeXpress is preparing its Park N’ Ride and shuttle services to transport guests through the crowded streets and venues. New routes now include Mount Dora, Eustis, Tavares and The Villages. Fares for all routes are $1 each way or $3 for an all-day pass.
“With safety always being our primary concern, we are pleased to offer transit services again during this year’s Bikefest,” said Ken Harley, manager of the Lake County Public Transportation Division. “By providing transit services, we believe this event will be safer and less congested for all patrons to enjoy.”
The Gator Harley Xpress shuttle will run every 20 minutes between downtown Leesburg and Gator Harley-Davidson, located at 1745 U.S. 441. The Villages Xpress shuttle will run every 30 minutes between downtown Leesburg and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites at 1205 Avenida Central N. in The Villages.
Two other shuttles with 30-minute service will be available. One will run from downtown Leesburg to the intersection of Old U.S. 441 and Donnelly Street in downtown Mount Dora, and the other will go from downtown Leesburg to the intersection of Grove Street and Bay Street in downtown Eustis.
The Gator Harley Xpress shuttle will operate Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7:40 p.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Both the Tavares-Mount Dora and Villages shuttles will operate Friday from 8 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., while the Tavares-Mount Dora shuttle will run Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the Villages shuttle running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
During the weekend, there will also be plenty of music to enjoy, including Firehouse on Friday and Seven May Three on Saturday.
“We have a couple of new events that are taking place,” O’Ryan said. “We’re bringing in a Dirt Bike Association, and that’s something new, and we also have featured a new on-site artist this year, Lit up, which is a relatively new band in the Orlando area. They wrote a song we’re using called ‘Full Throttle.’ This is our first year of supporting the young, unsigned artist.”
The song will not only be introduced at this event and performed there, but it’s also being featured on the Bikefest Web site.
“They wrote the song called ‘Full Throttle,’ and we put it on the back home page of our Web site, as well as YouTube, and then they also get the opportunity to perform live at the Miss Bikefest contest on Friday evening, so that new artist gets some really good exposure, and it’s a really good way to kick off our contest for next year where we’re going to say ‘If you want to submit a song to us, do it,’ ” O’Ryan said. “We’re trying to promote new featured artists who would like to get some exposure.”
O’Ryan said she’s also excited about meteorologists’ forecast that this weekend will offer picture-perfect spring weather in Central Florida.
“We were very thankful last weekend when the rain occurred,” she said. “For our sake, it cooled things down, so setting things up, it was much nicer. The meteorologists say there’s only a 10 percent chance of rain, and as long as we get some cloud cover to keep everyone from getting too hot, it makes for beautiful ride up to Bikefest, and to see what Lake County has to offer.”
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