by Douglas Chasar
Like the crack of a starter's pistol, Arizona Bike Week (ABW) unequivocally announces the beginning of the riding season in the Grand Canyon State and much of the Southwest. Representing the beginning for most of us, ABW is the end for Rich Dillman, culminating twelve months of thinking, planning, organizing and finally putting all the pieces into place.

"We start thinking about the next ABW as soon as this one is over," says Dillman, who has been director of the event for four years. "Our plan is to keep growing and making it better."

The Handlebar Saloon will bring back all the events enjoyed last year with the addition of boxing and kickboxing, charity casinos and live bands both day and night. The billiard tournament, which began as a few guys playing pool, has grown into a professional event with pro-am competitions. The things that work are brought back with several additions and improvements. This year's entertainment package will include freestyle motorcross stunt riders and an overall improvement in racing. As long as people keep enjoying the events, ABW will keep putting them on.

Dillman stresses the most difficult thing about ABW is getting everything to come together. It is not easy getting all the aftermarket manufacturers, franchise dealers, restaurants and hotels to begin thinking about ABW eight months in advance. Most people don't think about the event until it's just around the corner, and by then it is too late.

As a structured event, ABW is made possible only through a multitude of companies, people and the media coordinating their efforts. Food vendors, bands, security, trash collection and power all have to be coordinated to make ABW work. Without organization, there are just a bunch of things happening at the same time and place with no continuity.

Furthermore, ABW requires the support of the community, and though some communities are receptive to what ABW represents, some are not. People, however, are becoming more flexible and understanding to what motorcycle riders are doing for the community as a whole. More people are beginning to realize motorcycle riders are doctors, lawyers and business professionals, moms, dads, sisters and sons, all good, generous and respectful people. Reflecting on more than just motorcycle riders, International participants always have very good things to say about ABW and the people in the community.

Dillman expects this year's ABW will see an increase in participants over previous years. He further suggests the great thing about ABW compared to some other events around the country is that the community can bring in over two hundred thousand riders and there is still room, the crowds don't get overbearing. Since not everything can be done in ten days, ABW needs the continuing support of the local market and encourages feedback to help make the event better and better each year.

"We're trying to make everything better through our dedication and passion," says Dillman. ABW plans activities to keep people involved and entertained. Spanning ten days, ABW hosts 27 events including Scottsdale Cyclefest, the largest manufacturer/vendor expo in the southwest. This year Cyclefest spans five days, open an extra day to include everything that's going on and give everybody a chance to participate.

The social climate and economy aren't the same as they were a few years ago, however. This year ABW is forced to charge a gate fee to Cyclefest offsetting stepped up security expenses and other related costs. The fee is good for all five days of Cyclefest, though, and the $5 cover charge to enter the Handlebar Saloon has been waived. So, rather than paying the saloon's cover charge possibly five times during the event, participants will only have to pay the one time gate fee. Additionally, ABW sanctioned charity ride participants will be admitted to Cyclefest for free the day of the ride.

Dillman confesses that when fuel costs go up everything goes up and things just can't be free anymore, however, "The last thing people are reluctant to spend money on is recreation. People want to get out and be where other people are. We want ABW to be a place for people to come and build good memories about motorcycling."

Asserting he could not do everything by himself, Dillman credits much of the work to Al Corte and the staff of Outback Productions. He closes with a simple and sincere invitation, "Come, enjoy, have a good time and be safe. We want to see you next year."

Ride safe, ride often...hell, just ride! - dpc

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