BENNINGTON — An array of shiny, damp motorcycles roared into the parking lot behind Bennington Station Restaurant on Saturday evening for the Bennington International Motorcycle Club's third annual Bike Nite.
The free event featured a bike blessing by Dr. Roger Mason, a best of show award, music by DJ Moose Bell, a Chinese auction to benefit the Cancer Crusaders and a 50/50 raffle.
Bennington Station also offered food specials while the Bennington Fire Department grilled at the River Street station.
"It grows. That's our ultimate goal," Andy Smith, BIMC vice president said. "Every year we get more. In the past years the weather worked but it's bound to catch up with you at some point."
"We had gorgeous weather the first two years," Janet Hollner, BIMC treasurer said. "A lot don't want to ride in the rain. It hurts."
About 450 bikers attended the event last year; it was held on School Street since the inception. Groups from Rutland, Pownal, Brattleboro and Berkshire County came together. All motorcycle makes and models were welcomed.
"[Bennington Station] is really a nice spot," Smith said. "Here it's in a big, cohesive space, but not as visible as School Street. It's a work in progress."
Mason just joined the group last year when he was first asked to do the bike blessing. He said the blessing is a short prayer to "ask for safety of the souls" when riding.
"Freedom is an overused word but that's it," he said in regards to why he enjoys riding."It allows you to move along well and not sit in traffic. It's nice. No seatbelts."
Saints-N-Sickles motorcycle group from Pownal had a large presence at the event. They sold support stickers, hats, shirts and other motorcycle accessories. Only Harley Davidson bikes are operated in the group, according to Bob, Tim and Chopper, the road captain. They said they teach their children that it's the bike they believe is best.
Most of their work is community oriented, including fundraisers such as a poker run. They donate money to the Bennington Free Clinic and help out veterans. The group formed about five years ago and continues to grow with members from all over the county and surrounding New York towns.
Other vendors sold merchandise and motorcycle parts such as Ronnie's Cycle Sales of Bennington, Win's Trikes and Bikes from Rutland, and Smitty's Customs, to name a few.
For Bobby Gibbs of Bennington, it was his second year riding to the event in his Honda Shadow. He's been riding for 15 years on his own and attends most large rallies such as Americade in Lake George, N.Y., and Laconia Motorcycle Week in New Hampshire.
"It's just the experience of riding," he said. "A van is six times bigger than I am on a bike. It's just not much of a rush, but you have to be brave to ride."
A ride-in and poker run began at 10 a.m. on July 10, starting at Bennington Station with intentions to end at D's Market and Deli on East Road with a barbecue.
The club is in the planning stages of organizing a fall ride at the Vermont Veterans' Home, but nothing is definite.
Sponsors include Bennington Station, Bennington Muffler & Auto Center, i3 Imaging Group, the Bennington Chamber of Commerce and the Better Bennington Corporation.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.