Plan comes together to allow Bikefest to roll forward
Two and three-wheeled motorcycles will be allowed to park down the center of the Bagnell Dam Strip during Bikefest – but only between 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. each day from Wednesday, Sept. 15, to Monday, Sept. 20 – and only between Ballenger Road and Bagnell Dam.
In a special meeting Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen meeting held Sept. 9, aldermen voted unanimously to close the road to “vehicular traffic, save and except motorcycles, including three wheeled vehicles, emergency and delivery vehicles and such other vehicles as the Police Department deems necessary” in order to accommodate the thousands of bikers that will flock to The Strip during Bikefest. The “other vehicles” include those driven by employees traveling to and from work.
Heather Brown, executive director of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau, spoke to the board about the importance of the event to Lake-area businesses before they voted.
“Bikefest was created 15 years ago to extend the tourism season. The two-day event drew a small crowd who just wanted to enjoy the beauty of the area. Although the debate is still out there on exactly how many people attend, we can assure you it’s between 60,000 and 100,000. And those people come from 14 different states including Missouri,” she said. “This has grown into a huge event for everyone involved.”
And it grew quickly. Just five years after its humble beginning, Bikefest had grown into a five-day event with an estimated economic impact of slightly more than $1.4 million. Today, the economic impact is estimated to be more than $19 million.
Although the layout of Lake Ozark’s Bagnell Dam Strip made it the perfect site to host the event, it has never been a city-sponsored event. Instead, over the years, different organizations stepped up to accept responsibility for overseeing Bikefest and take care of details like arranging for porta-potties and trash cans to be placed up and down The Strip, obtaining insurance, lining up security - and applying for a permit from the city to close the center lane to all but motorcycle traffic. A city ordinance requires those applications to be filed 60 days prior to the event.
However, this year no one took on that responsibility. As a result, Lake Ozark city officials announced that traffic would be handled the same as any other day: all vehicles – including motorcycles – illegally parked would be ticketed and towed.
At the meeting, the police chief explained their stance.
“I have no issue with Bikefest. It brings some of the friendliest people that our police department has ever dealt with. But without an event application or any plans put in place, we have nowhere to go, and I have to do what I have to do as police chief to provide public safety for the entire city. We don’t allow center-lane parking without a special permit,” he said, adding that, just days ago, Bagnell Dam Strip Association (BDSA) Co-chairman Mike Page came up with an idea that they felt would work. “I have spent 100 percent of my time over the past two days working on Bikefest – and it’s not our event. But we’re going to do what we can to make this work for everybody.”
Also at the last minute, the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau agreed to oversee Bikefest, apply for the permit and arrange for all city requirements to be met if the city passed the emergency ordinance allowing the road to be shut down.
After agreeing that they felt comfortable with Brown’s proposal, City Attorney Christopher Rohrer drafted the ordinance.
At Thursday’s meeting, Brown told the board that she would have insurance, with the same level of protection as was provided for previous events, in place by the following day; the local Boy Scout troop agreed to help with clean-up on Sunday, Sept. 19, and the BDSA, which sponsors Hot Summer Nights, promised to leave the porta-potties and trash cans in place after their Friday night cruise-in. Launderville said he arranged for a private security company to assist law enforcement.
A couple of aldermen said they had concerns about passing an ordinance on a promise, and Alderman Vernon Jaycox objected to restricting access to the Celebration Cruise Ships, parked at the bottom of The Strip, for five days. However, Chief Launderville said motorists heading to the Celebration could be routed via Valley Road.
The application to hold Bikefest will be presented to the board for approval at their next regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Sept. 14.