Norwich greets Gold Wing Riders

NORWICH – The Norwich community has welcomed the Honda Gold Wing Road Riders Biker’s Rally with open arms this weekend, including an official certificate of appreciation issued on behalf of the city and both the fire and police departments participating in a public motorcycle crash reenactment this Saturday.

Norwich Mayor Joseph P. Maiurano presented the certificate on behalf of the city to the New York District Director of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association, Ed Bahrenburg Thursday.

The certificate read, “This certificate of appreciation is offered to the Gold Wing Road Riders for choosing the City of Norwich for your rallies, we are happy to celebrated the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship.”

“We started working with them in October and we believe it’s a great resource for the city’s economy, bringing in four or five hundred people. We’ve worked very closely with them and we really try to bring the enthusiasm of these groups to the area,” said Maiurano, who estimated that the rally would stimulate close to $200,000 in the local economy over the weekend.

“We welcome them and we hope they enjoy their stay in the City of Norwich and will come back in 2011,” said the mayor.

The Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA) was founded in 1977. The organization’s membership has grown to more than 800 chapters since, including 80,000 members in the United States, Canada and 53 other foreign countries, explained the group’s spokeswoman, Linda Waterman.

Bahrenburg said that 320 members had already registered to attend the Norwich rally and another 40 to 60 tend to show up during the event.

Waterman said the event was the first time two different states, the New York and New Jersey districts, had decided to hold their annual rally together.

“This is a big deal,” she said.

Riders will be attending activities and sponsoring public events centered around the Howard Johnson’s Hotel in Norwich throughout the weekend.

Although the majority of activities are geared toward the association’s members – such as guided rides and first aid seminars – a handful of events are open to the public.

“Basically anything you can find outside of the hotel is for the public and everything going on inside is for the members,” said Bahrenburg.

Vendors for the rally have lined up in the parking lot behind Howard Johnson’s, which is all open to the public.

Some of the highlights this weekend include a bike show in the front parking lot from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday, followed later tonight by a lighted bike parade through Norwich at 9:30.

Bahrenburg said the parade was a great example of Norwich’s hospitality.

“We’ve been involved in the event for the last nine years,” he said, explaining his wife Dottie was instrumental in organizing the events with him.

“We have been the ‘ones in charge’ of planning for about three years now. This is our fifth city we’ve interacted with, in New York State, and usually, after spending two years at a place, on our way out the town’s fathers would ask us, ‘How can we help you so you come back next year?’ These guys (Norwich) only heard we were interested in coming here and said ‘How can we help you?’”

Bahrenburg said the group was originally planing to ride around the hotel for the light show, but Police Chief Joseph Angelino, Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo and Maiurano offered to have the parade through the city instead.

“They’ve come up with stuff we’ve never thought to ask because in the past we’ve been shot down. They’ve actually encouraged us,” said Bahrenburg.

A number of the riders participating in the light show will have their bikes fitted with flashing LED lights, a few keeping to the beat of pre-programed music, said Bahrenburg. He also said two of the GWRRA members had won national awards for their displays.

From 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, the association, working closely with the Norwich police and fire departments, will put on a mock motorcycle versus car crash, closing down the intersection of Henry and Court streets. The demonstration is also open to the public.

Gary Cork, director of the GWRRA Chapter M in Saratoga Springs, has been working with police and fire crews in organizing the event, which will include a number of actors and re-life response situations.

The scripted demonstration took months of advanced planning and will depict the scene of a typical serious accident with emergency crews treating the incident as if it were a real crash.

“You could see something like this a 100 times and you still won’t be ready for when it happens. But, we want to give people an idea of what to expect and how to deal with an accident,” said Cork.

Norwich Police Sgt. Gard Turner, who was recently involved in a minor motorcycle versus deer accident himself, aided in setting up the presentation, lending his experience as an emergency responder and a cyclist, adding to the presentation’s authenticity.

“With so many motorcycles in the area this weekend, the demonstration won’t just show people what to expect in a collision but, hopefully, it’ll make people more aware of the potential dangers so they can try to avoid it before it happens,” he said.

“This is something that, whether you ride a motorcycle or not, everyone should see. It can get emotional at times,” said Cork.

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