The sound of money
As I was waiting in line outside the AUD for tickets to a classical music concert, a large man on a large motorcycle decided we all needed to hear the sound of his very large pipes. Circling the outdoor crowd twice was obviously not enough and on his third attempt I made it vocally clear what a %&@#! I thought he was. Immediately behind me a voice piped in, “That’s the sound of money.”
“ Yes, and at what price,” I shot back.
Last weekend’s Bikes, Blues and Barbecue assault on the senses no doubt made a lot of money for some people. The highway hotels were full, there were lines outside most restaurants and people certainly spilling out of the bars. Ca-ching, ca-ching – the sound of the cash drawer drowning out the sound of loud pipes.
What came as surprise news to me was that Eureka Springs was officially on the triple B roster with a guestimate of seven-to-ten thousand motorcycles converging on our tiny town.
If this was a once or even a twice yearly event I would happily stick my fingers in my ears and say “go at ‘em,” but what concerns me is the aggressive marketing campaign courting these “motorcycle enthusiasts” to our charming village year round.
Our Harley-riding Mayor is literally leading the pack with promo-video-footage of himself and a small posse riding through town. He’s also attending CAPC-sponsored motorcycle rally events around the country – handing out “Ride Eureka” brochures and inviting everyone to come experience our hills.
Meanwhile the Chamber of Commerce has a two-page center spread in its current Visitor Guide extolling the joys of motorcycle travel in Eureka Springs, and more biker bars and leather shops are sprouting up, foreshadowing what is to come.
Plain and simple, I don’t want to live in a biker town and that is exactly what we will become if we continue on this targeted path.
When I lived in Key West, another small, laid-back, funky, quaint, artsy, historical town, the powers-that-be at the time (mid-‘80s – that other recession) actively campaigned for Daytona Beach’s “Spring Break” motorcycle overflow. They fortunately and quickly realized their error and stopped when the island’s high-end clientele canceled stays or stopped coming altogether because of the noise.
I know the three women from Tulsa who came into my store last weekend on a ladies getaway will not be back anytime soon, nor the two gentlemen I met from Chicago who flew in to XNA specifically to see the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and told they needed to spend at least one night in Eureka Springs.
I’ve heard the argument that many of these Harley riders are high-end professionals and will likely return to Eureka Springs by car with their families. No doubt some will, but most, in all likelihood, will come back with eight of they’re riding friends. Who would bring their kids to a biker town?
I’m not anti-motorcycle, only anti-noise, and unfortunately the constant sound of racking pipes has a negative effect on many of the tourists who come here for the quiet charm. And let’s not forget the people who live here and the quality of life they have come to expect and deserve.
I consider myself a live-and-let-live type, but when others’ behavior impacts my ability to carry on a conversation, and threatens my livelihood, I will speak out. And I am not a lone voice, there are many other residents and merchants who feel the same way.
Bikers may bring some businesses money in the short run, but long-term becoming a biker town is neither sustainable nor desirable.
Let’s not make bikers the new salvation to replace our dying Passion Play.