Five Full Days of Excitement Kicks Off Aug. 22, 2012 in Olean, NY
When it comes to motorcycles and their accompanying rallies, Dennis Jones of Olean, NY is a well-traveled enthusiast. He’s ridden motorcycles since he was a teenager. An estimation of his yearly mileage stands close to 18,000. He’s been to motorcycle rallies all over the Eastern seaboard - from the pilgrimages in Myrtle Beach and Daytona to smaller hot rallies around Western New York and Pennsylvania.
About ten years ago, Jones thought that Olean could support its own rally. However, when he approached the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce with the idea, they shut it down. Not dissuaded, Jones met with them again and proposed the idea. Again, the answer was no.
Like the scene out of The Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufraine keeps writing letters to get books for the prison library, Jones kept going. Finally, after the 8th time, the Chamber finally said yes.
“A decade ago, three friends and I got to thinking about Olean hosting a rally,” Jones said. “ knew if we had our own event, it would grow like crazy. I had an email list of about 50 riders that I frequented the road with. When we approached the Chamber, they were wary of the idea. But we finally convinced them.”
And just like that, Rally in the Valley was born.
The Rally’s inception in 2003 was met with decent numbers. The dice run - which consists of a group of riders who travel a pre-determined route on their bikes - had 400 participants. Back then the Rally was only two days long with limited sponsorships and had somewhere around 2,500 spectators.
Since its inaugural event, however, growth has been exponential. Last year, the dice run had over a whopping 1,000 riders participate, traveling over 113 miles.
“It’s grown a lot,” Jones said. “Most of our riders come from within 50 miles. But one of the cool things we do is give out a ‘Longest Rider Award,’ which goes to the person who has traveled the farthest to get here. We’ve had Kansas City, Florida, Texas and Minneapolis, which is great.”
All for the Cause
The Rally is more than just a get-together for motorcycle enthusiasts. It’s a full-blown festival now spread over five days that raises money for various charities around the Olean area. Last year, over $10,000 was raised and donated to charities such as the Southern Tier Child Advocacy Center, the ReHabilitation Center, Mercy Flight and the Southern Tier Military Support Group … and that’s just to name a few.
“In total, the Rally has raised over $160,000,” Jones said. “So impressive. It’s a testament to the riders who help us give back.”
Gowanda, NY is home to a Harley-Davidson shop, so there is a natural draw for a lot of riders. Every year, they host a ‘Harley Happening,’ which is their version of the Rally. That’s where the genesis of Jones’ idea came from.
“Gowanda Harley-Davidson, Inc. and Certo Brothers are two of our main sponsors,” Jones said. “Then we have Community Bank, Country Inn & Suites, Fatheads Restaurant in Allegany, The Pig 95.7 WPIG, The Mix 101.5 WMXO and Slugg’s Guns. Just a great group of sponsors that really make the event what it is.”
Some people generalize motorcyclists as a tough and intimidating crowd. When asked about how the community has accepted the Rally, Jones’ answer was swift.
“They love it,” he said. “We’ve really worked on keeping it a family event and keeping the entertainment family-oriented. We don’t want people to be embarrassed to bring their families, because from what I’ve seen, the kids absolutely love it. Last year at the dice run, we passed by people sitting in lawn chairs waiting for us to go by. It’s a really fun time for everyone.”
This Year's Event
This year, the dice run will start in Olean and will travel through Salamanca, Little Valley, Randolph, Gowanda, Ellicottville, a quick stop at Fatheads and then back to Olean.
Another big draw for the Rally are the prizes, with 1st place awarding one lucky winner a brand new 2012 Harley Davidson Big Red Sportser Seventy-Two. Second place is just as good – a 2012 Harley Davidson Red Sunglo Sportster Superlow. Third place winner will receive a 2012 CarMate Enclosed Two Bike Trailer, and fourth place will win a rifle courtesy Slugg’s Guns.
The committee is currently selling raffle tickets at $20 apiece (only 2,500 tickets will be sold), and they will draw the winners on Sunday, Aug. 26 - the final day of the Rally.
“The prizes are great, the events are great and it’s all-around just an unbelievable event,” Jones said. “This year, we hope to raise $30,000 to give back to local charities.”
This year’s Rally in the Valley will kick-off Aug. 22 and will run through Aug. 26 - five days jam packed with all kinds of fun and exciting happenings. For more information, including a complete schedule of events, head to www.oleanny.com. Or call the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce at 716-372-4433.