IGNACIO - To walk down Goddard Avenue on the Saturday of Ignacio Bike Week is to subject oneself to lungs full of harmful exhaust fumes, offensive T-shirts, loud rock music and, this year, at least one call of "nice man bag."
Scarred for life.
Not exactly. What began as a characteristically, debased bike rally in the mid-1990s has morphed into a huge draw for this tiny community (population 699), with thousands and thousands of sleeveless shirts and wind-burned faces descending on the annual gathering.
This weekend, they came from all over the Southwest, from Alaska and Florida, and many just walked in from their houses.
A different kind of biker-friendly community, this year the rally featured concerts, poker tournaments, burnouts, bull riding, pole dancing, wet T-shirt contests, inventive facial hair and tattoo ink, and leather by the ton. Tattooed men pushed stroll-ers, and kids wore fake tattoos.
Saturday, let there be no doubt, was Ignacio's biggest day of the year.
"It was a little slow (Friday), but today it really kicked in," said Town Manager Balty Quintana. "It's a beautiful area, and people who come here really want to see everything."
Friends reconvened and lean-ed against the brick walls that line Goddard Avenue. Engines rumbled constantly, interrupting conversations but barely turning heads.
The consensus among organizers, vendors, rally usuals and locals was Wednesday and Thursday saw brisk business during the day, with attendance as high as it has ever been, but dropped off Friday, perhaps because the Sugar Pine Ranch Rally was occurring concurrently in Mancos.
This year's rally was the first to feature the Community Kids Rally, a family-friendly sideshow near Ignacio Elementary School, where kids took turns on tractor rides, sessions in a bounce house, listened to teen band Psychedelic Mojo and played in the trees.
"It's much more of a family deal now," said Mike Pacheco, vice president of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce, who was handing out wristbands at the beer tent.
Twenty-year-old Ignacio resident Katera Washington was helping run the Kids Rally.
"It got too hectic," she said of the rallies she used to attend as a child. "It was a lot more lewd. It's better this way."
Taylor Skelton was named queen at the Kids Rally in the Biker Baby contest, several blocks away from the leers and catcalls at the naming of Ms. Ignacio in the main beer tent. The 3-year-old slept for part of the ride over from Durango on the back of her grandmother, Delta resident Cathie Tiffany's, trike.
Tiffany rode over with her son, Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Skelton, Taylor's dad, who is just days out of a deployment in Somalia. He was off at the main rally while his daughter claimed the fuzzy purple tiara in the park.
A low rumble penetrated the cool and otherwise quiet Ignacio Community Library, where library assistant Susan Anderson was reading children's stories undisturbed. The facility is open until 4 p.m. Saturdays but looked desolate this weekend with rally action buzzing feet away at the corner of Pioneer Street and Goddard Avenue.
"With Bike Week, most of our business is with people using the Internet," she said.
The library was offering free Internet passes good for two 45-minute sessions online. Other than three bikers using the Internet, there was nobody there.
Emily Meisner was visibly drowsy, having spent the night before taking care of last-minute details, putting out fires and not sleeping.
"Right now, we're neck and neck with last year's numbers," the event co-organizer said between phone calls and hugs with people whose names she could almost remember.
"I'm definitely more relaxed now than I was about a week ago," she said with a drowsy smile.
An Oxford man with the biker handle "Groovy" has attended the rally since it started in 1993. He worked security those first few years, when the rally was a more depraved, 21-and-older affair, held at the county fairgrounds.
"Most of the problems we had there were with locals, usually. Not the bikers. It was the locals that came to party," he said.