By Amy Nile Herald Writer
SNOHOMISH — The bikers are back in town. And now, they’re bent on changing the outlaw image of drunken, brawling motorcycle crowds.
Riders are set to rumble down First Street for the 18th annual Sky Valley Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show on Sunday.
Sky Valley ABATE is running the spectacle from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nonprofit’s acronym originally stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments,” said leather-clad Roger “The Highwayman” Hanson.
Now, the group goes by American Bikers Aimed Towards Education. Hanson, 61, said it works to fight motorcycle regulation, such as mandatory helmet laws.
“It’s like freedom of choice,” the retired construction worker said.
The group does support motorcycle safety month, Hanson said. That’s why the show takes place in May. It also marks the start of riding season.
“It’s like a mini Sturgis,” said Hanson, of Snohomish, referring to the legendary annual motorcycle rally in Stugis, South Dakota.
This year, the show here boasts its first-ever beer garden outside of Stewart’s Tavern. First Street is scheduled to be shut down and lined with bikes on display, including choppers and antique hogs.
More than 40 vendors are lined up to sell biker gear, such as sunglasses, bandanas, leather accessories, and Harley Davidson paraphernalia.
Historically, the event has taken place in Snohomish. A clash with city officials over increased police costs in 2009 forced the event to move. The group held shows in Sultan and Everett instead. It was canceled due to a lack of funding in 2011. It returned to Snohomish in 2012.
Now, ABATE is set on ridding certain stereotypes associated with bikers and motorcycle shows.
“We’re trying to make it more of a family event,” said Rod “Red Dog” Hobelman. “Whatever we make off this thing, we put back into the community.”
The group plans to donate proceeds to the Snohomish Senior Center and the food bank.
“Unlike the ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ we actually do give back to the community,” Hanson said, referring to the TV show on FX.
Also, a different kind of crowd is into motorcycles these days.
“Now you see doctors and lawyers,” Hanson said. “We call them weekend warriors.”
The days of liquor-fueled fights are mostly a thing of the past, as he sees it.
Hobelman, 55, agrees. He has seen the change as an 18-year veteran organizer of the show. Still, the freedom of riding across America remains.
“The open road is the whole adventure of it,” said Hobelman, a construction worker.
Hanson also finds thrill through traversing the country. That’s one reason he’s been hooked for years.
“It feels like you’re flying,” he said.
“The sound of the engine exhaust, the girls drooling, you kind of become a legend in your own mind.”
Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.