IGNACIO – The officials numbers aren’t in quite yet, but Johnny Valdez, owner of Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, said the annual event saw at least a 25 percent increase in attendance compared with last year.
“We’re definitely up,” said Valdez, who estimated on Sunday afternoon at least 7,500 attendees passed through the rally center gate at the Sky Ute Fairgrounds in Ignacio.
The 24th annual rally, which kicked off Thursday and came to a close late Sunday, drew thousands of motorcyclists from all over the country, and even brought in international travelers.
The reason for the increase in popularity from last year, Valdez speculated, boiled down to two factors: favorable weather and the appeal of the national act, Los Lonely Boys.
Last year, rainstorms, thunder and lightning wreaked havoc throughout Labor Day Weekend, culminating in a near tornado on Saturday night. The storms cause difficult riding conditions, and made for a muddy campground.
Valdez, who is entering his second year as rally owner, said over the course of the last year, event organizers worked with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, installed new drainage and despite a few storms this weekend, encountered no problems.
As for booking Los Lonely Boys, Valdez said the right circumstances fell into place. The band, most widely recognized for their 2003 hit “Heaven,” brought in 2,500 to 3,000 attendees on Friday.
“That’s the largest Friday night I’ve seen in at least five years,” Valdez said.
The improved weather conditions were on the lips of most bikers on Sunday, as the event started to wind down. Kenny Lizer from Albuquerque was enjoying his second time at the Four Corners rally.
“Last year, we were stuck in the rain,” Lizer said. “But this year, the ride up here was nice.”
For Lizer, his friend Rick Sullivan, and most other motorcyclists who attended the rally, the four-day event is a chance for people with a shared interest to gather, and, perhaps most of all, go on beautiful rides throughout the Four Corners.
“I like to come and mingle with people,” said Sullivan, who attends similar rallies throughout the country. “You don’t get a bunch of high society snobs here. Everyone here is down to earth. That’s what this is about.”
As Durangoans wake up to a quieter town Monday, so too do local law enforcement officers, who finally get a chance to breathe after the busy Labor Day weekend.
While summer’s last holiday can keep officers hopping, officials with the Colorado State Patrol, Durango Police Department and La Plata County Sheriff’s Office all said despite a major increase in motorcyclists, law enforcement actions did not increase compared with any other holiday weekends.
“It’s a little bit busier than usual, but not as busy as motorcycle rallies have been in the past,” the Sheriff’s Office Lt. Sam Eggleston said. “We’re not overwhelmed.”
Valdez already has his sights on next year, which should be all planned within the next several weeks. He said for the event’s 25th anniversary, expect to see even more of a party.
“We’re hoping to book two or three national acts to celebrate,” he said. “It’s going to be good.”