People lined up along the boundaries of a makeshift track about the length of a football field, where motorcyclists raced two at a time, the deafening roar of their bikes drowning out cheers from the crowd.
Nearby, three onlookers cooled off in a kiddie pool set up in the back of a truck, and people several yards away took a Sunday afternoon nap in their tents.
Paradise Point at Perry Lake was transformed into a biker’s utopia this Labor Day weekend for the 38th annual bike rally, a fundraiser for the Kansas chapter of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE).
The money raised from admission fees for the thousands of campers and bikers will pay lobbyists who represent the perspectives of ABATE members on state laws and proposed laws that may affect motorcyclists. ABATE opposes mandatory helmet laws, and is currently advocating for harsher punishments for texting while driving and for the removal of cable barriers along roadways because of the danger they pose to motorcyclists.
“This is the biggest and final fundraiser of the year,” said Paul Woodyard, representative for ABATE District 15 based in Manhattan. “Each district has some part in the whole thing. We’re the hosts of this party for everyone else.”
While Woodyard and others registered attendees and tallied profits, just down the road the scene was a little less politically minded. Gleaming motorcycles lined the roads, and people grilled, played games and waited in line for $5 showers as engines roared and hard rock music wafted from the track at the bottom of the hill.
There were live performers Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, a dance floor, food stands and vendors selling helmets, leather jackets, T-shirts and motorcycle accessories.
Bill Todd of Dearborn, Mo., set up his lemonade stand at the rally for the second consecutive summer. He and his girlfriend, Lisa Donovan, sold lemonade and listened to the bands performing on the stage next to their camper.
Other than the unexpected storm early Sunday morning, which broke their awning, disrupted their sleep and created a mud pit, Todd and Donovan said they were enjoying their time relaxing and seeing the different bikes.
“It’s just so mellow,” Donovan said. “You see no cops, and nobody is fighting.”
As the three-day rally came to an end Sunday evening, people dismantled their tents and packed up their campers. Motorcycles streamed out of Paradise Point by the dozens.
Natalie Wrigley, a member of District 15, sat at the registration tent, watching people make their exit.
Though it was over, Wrigley said, people would take a bit of the rally with them.
“You won’t be the same when you leave,” she said.