SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – If you notice more motorcycles on the streets of Springfield this weekend, there’s a reason for it.
BMW Motorcycle Owners of America is celebrating its 50th anniversary by hosting its national rally in Springfield. Started in 1972 by five friends who shared a passion for BMW motorcycles, the group now has more than 32,000 members and about 5,500 attendees are expected for their national gathering at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds. BMW MOA has members in all 50 states plus 10 Canadian provinces and seven continents.
“A lot of people don’t know that BMW built motorcycles before cars,” said Ted Moyer, CEO of BMW MOA. “Our rally moves each year from one location to another as we rotate through areas across the country. We were actually supposed to be in Springfield last year, but were delayed due to the pandemic. It is an excellent location for us, the center of the country where we have a large population base that is very easy to reach from the four corners.”
The Ozark Empire Fairgrounds were abuzz with activity Friday, with motorcycles filling the parking lot and vendors, seminars, and indoor and outdoor entertainment at the E-Plex.
Tents dotted the landscape around the grounds as many attendees camped out.
Renee Denk and her husband Bob are camping with their poodle Ginger, but because of the heat, they don’t spend all their time in a tent.
“I have an air-conditioned hotel room,” Renee said with a smile as she pointed to the dog. “It wasn’t because I wanted it. It was for her.
Visitors are expected to spend about $1.4 million here, which is one of Springfield’s biggest events since the pandemic took much of the city’s tourism business.
Considering that Springfield has seen an increase in motorcycle accidents this year, there is also concern that rally participants have 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 them like Harleys,” added Steve Kronberger, a member of the BMW Motorcycle Club of Springfield. “So that’s one of the factors. People don’t listen to us. But we want people to look outside. Be careful not to use your cell phone while driving your car. Of course, motorcyclists should also be careful.”
The rally tries to do its part by offering low-speed maneuvering courses where safety coaches provide guidance.
“We also have a sister charitable foundation whose mission is to promote passenger safety education and training,” Moyer said. “So all their efforts are focused on training riders, whether they are new or experienced.”
As you stroll the grounds and see groups sitting under the shade of a tree talking or waving as they bike past, you feel the camaraderie that comes from a shared love of hitting the road.
It’s like a family… and some people even started their families thanks to the annual event.
“If it wasn’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,” said Bob.
“My story is similar,” Kronberger said. “When I met my current wife, she rode motorcycles and I didn’t. She was leaving and going to all these rallies, and I felt left out, so I was hooked.”
So the “love connection” isn’t just about motorcycles. Sometimes it can also lead to a love connection between humans.
“I think that’s what it’s really about,” Moyer said with a smile. “Those relationships are what make us unique, honestly.”
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