SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – If you notice more motorcycles on the streets of Springfield this weekend, there’s a reason for it.
The BMW Motorcycle Owners of America are celebrating their 50th anniversary by hosting their national rally in Springfield. Started in 1972 by five friends who shared the same passion for BMW cycles, the group now counts over 32,000 members, and around 5,500 attendees are expected for their national get-together at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. The BMW MOA has members in all 50 states plus 10 Canadian provinces and seven continents.
“A lot of people don’t know that BMW actually made motorcycles before they made automobiles,” said BMW MOA Executive Director Ted Moyer. “Our rally moves each year from location to location as we rotate across zones from all across the country. We were actually supposed to be in Springfield last year but got pushed back because of the pandemic. It’s a great location for us, the center of the country where we have a lot of population-base that’s really easy to get to from all four corners.”
The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds was buzzing with activity on Friday, with motorcycles filling the parking lot and vendors, seminars, and entertainment spread outdoors and indoors at the E-Plex.
Tents were dotting the landscape around the grounds as many attendees were camping.
Renee Denk and her husband Bob are camping with their poodle Ginger, but because of the heat, they’re not spending all their time in a tent.
“I got a hotel room with air conditioning,” Renee said with a laugh as she pointed to the dog. “It wasn’t because I wanted it. It was for her.”
The visitors are expected to spend around $1.4 million here, which is one of Springfield’s most significant events since the pandemic took away much of the city’s tourism business.
Considering Springfield has had an increase in motorcycle crashes this year, there’s also concern about rally participants having a safe experience.
“The sheer number of motorcycles that are here this weekend adds a different level to the complexity of riding a motorcycle, especially in traffic,” Moyer said.
“The other thing is that BMWs are quiet, so you don’t hear ‘em like the Harleys,” added Steve Kronberger, a member of Springfield’s BMW Motorcycle Club. “So that’s one of the factors. People don’t hear us. But we want people to just look out. Be careful and don’t use your cellphone while you’re driving your car. Of course, motorcyclists need to be careful too.”
The rally tries to do its part by offering low-speed maneuvering courses where safety trainers provide guidance.
“We also have a sister charitable foundation whose entire mission is to advance rider safety education and training,” Moyer pointed out. “So all of their efforts are about getting motorcyclists trained whether they’re new or experienced.”
As you stroll the grounds and see groups sitting beneath a shade tree talking or waving as they pass on cycles, you feel the camaraderie that comes from a shared love of hitting the open road.
It’s like a family…and some people even started their families thanks to the annual event.
“If it weren’t for the national rally, I wouldn’t be married,” said Bob Denk, Renee’s husband. “I met my wife in 1999 in Rhinebeck, New York.”
“I was with another guy (at the rally),” Renee said. “Then we broke up, and about a week later….”
“We got together, and the rest is history,” Bob said.
“My story is similar,” said Kronberger. “When I met my current wife, she was riding motorcycles, and I was not. She was leaving and going to all these rallies, and I felt left out, so I got hooked on it.”
So the “love connection” isn’t just about motorcycles. Sometimes it can lead to a love connection between humans as well.
“I think that’s what it’s really all about,” Moyer said with a smile. “Those relationships are what makes us unique, quite honestly.”
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