DIGBY, NS — After a two-year absence due to the COVID pandemic, thousands of motorcycles will head to Digby for the annual Wharf Rat Rally to be held September 1-4. This is the 18th year of the annual gathering.
“I would say it will be quite a big event this year,” says Peter James, project manager for this year’s rally.
“Rooms are all fully booked and have been full for weeks, in some cases months,” he says. “Everywhere seems to be full.”
Biker registration will increase in the days leading up to the start of the rally, James said.
“You buy a registration package for two reasons; because you want to park downtown and put a sticker on your bike and secondly you want to support the rally. Both reasons are very good.
When people register for the rally, they receive a wristband that makes them eligible for random prizes throughout the rally.
“This year we’re doing something called the Red Rally Wristband as a way to get more support,” says James, explaining that the wristbands will be sold to the general public for $5 and people who wear them will be eligible for random prizes throughout the four days.
“Sponsors have given us t-shirts, hats…these will be randomly distributed to people wearing red wristbands to show that we appreciate the support,” says James.
“In addition, one of the novelties of this year is a wooden dollar. If you are lucky enough to get one, it will entitle you to any item from the Goods Shop during the rally,” he explains. “If someone gives you the wooden dollar, you can take it to 1 Birch St., which is the new rally headquarters, and you can exchange it for any item in the shop. It’s a nice little gift. »
A full list of activities is planned for this year’s rally. There will be two main stunt shows this year. The 902 Stunt stunt team will be the main stuntmen on the dock, and the Globe of Death will be back on the rally.
“We have some great custom builders this year with phenomenal looking bikes, which is always an attraction,” says James, including Orange Paint Factory, D&B Cycle,
S&S Custom and Iron Head cycles. “They haven’t been on display for three years, so it will be interesting to see what they produce.”
While the individual bikes that are ridden at the rally and parked downtown are all unique and an attraction in themselves, the custom builders “are the icing on the cake,” James says.
“Harley Davidson has done a lot for this year’s rally and put a few things in place,” he added. “Harley will bring 18 bikes for people to ride. You can book a time and date for a ride on the bikes they bring and do group rides.”
Also new to the rally this year will be the Highland Games on September 4 at Digby Primary School.
“We have a growing team. There will be caber throws and things like that with audience participation,” James says. “It was something requested by a few people to do strength events, so we’ll put it in this year and if people like it and we get a lot of feedback about it, we’ll expand it in the years to come. .”
Drift bikes, BMX, show and shine, blessing of the bikes, vendors, beer tents organized by the Royal Canadian Legion, fireworks and the 50/50 draw also return to this year’s rally. James says there will be a lot more musical entertainment this year and a family zone at Digby Ball Park with family activities such as bouncy castles, pirates and face painting.
“Share The Wind” rides are back this year. Created during the 2004 Wharf Rat Rally, anyone can participate in the rides, which often take place in hospitals or long-term care homes. One or two bikes with low-entry sidecars are part of the ride, so anyone they visit who wants to take a ride in a sidecar can do so.
“It’s a good thing we’re doing. Everyone appreciates it and benefits from it, especially in long-term care homes and hospitals,” says James. “It may be the only time some of these people can ride a bike. Some people would have liked to ride a bike and it gives them that opportunity.
A list of rides associated with the rally this year can be found on the “Share The Wind” Facebook page. James says the sidecar bikes will also be in the Family Zone on September 4 to give kids and family members the chance to take a little ride.
Participating in the rally is a colossal undertaking. More than 200 volunteers help during the rally.
“We have great volunteers who have worked throughout the year, including the Board of Directors,” says James, adding that a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner is held after the rally as a thank you. “If there are volunteers who want to get involved, write to us.”
One such volunteer is Kevin Ellis, President of the Digby Chamber of Commerce and Secretary-Treasurer of the Rally Organizing Committee.
Ellis says people are thrilled the rally is back, especially after the event has been absent for the past two years.
“For organizations, restaurants, and gas stations, Labor Day weekend is the best weekend they have in terms of numbers, opportunities for vendors, and merchants,” Ellis says.
“When I look at the number of rooms available, there are hardly any, so that’s a good sign. Of course, being an outdoor event, we depend on the weather, so we always hope for sunshine,” says Ellis.
Rallying is about more than motorcycles, adds Ellis.
“It’s not just about the rally. It’s about coming back and seeing friends. It’s about what he does for our community,” he says. “The city creates a whole new environment. It doesn’t even look like it’s Digby anymore. It could be somewhere else, but we have one of the most magnificent settings with the harbor and the Annapolis Basin.
Ellis says local businesses are bracing for the influx of visitors with extra staff for the weekend.
“Everyone benefits directly or indirectly,” he says.
In 2019, the final year of the rally, more than 10,000 motorcycles registered for the weekend.
Attendance was estimated at 22,000 visitors for three or more days, and that doesn’t include day-trippers or people who stayed one or two nights, James says.
“It’s quite a hike considering the population of Digby. That’s probably 10 times the population of Digby,” he says.
According to an assessment of the economic impact of the 2017 rally, total attendance over the four days was 68,480 with 21,870 people attending on average at 3.1 days. A total of $6.7 million in visitor spending is directly attributable to the Digby Wharf Rat Rally, which provided a $4.9 million boost to Nova Scotia’s GDP.
More than three-quarters (77%) of those in attendance were from outside Digby, including 26% from outside the province.
WHAT IS HAPPENING?
When and where? For more information on what’s happening at the Wharf Rat Rally, visit the event’s Facebook page and/or website to schedule event information.