Event History

A History of Fun, Bikes and Giving Back to the Community.

Bikes, Blues, & BBQ Today.

The first Bikes, Blues, & BBQ rally was held in the year 2000 with just over 300 riders. Today, Bikes, Blues & BBQ is the largest motorcycle rally in the United States benefiting local charities. Last  year, it was estimated that over 400,000 people attended the rally from all 50 states and many other countries.

Bikes, Blues, & BBQ also benefits the local economy. According to a 2013 study conducted by the University of Arkansas Center for Business and Economic Research, an estimated $69-80 million economic impact was generated to Arkansas  during the Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally week.

The Beginning of a Tradition.

The notion for Bikes, Blues, & BBQ began over 20 years ago when Richard Watson, then Fayetteville’s Police Chief, bought his first Harley. At that time he started attending many of the major motorcycle rallies throughout the United States.

While doing so, he saw the economic potential of hosting a rally in Northwest Arkansas. Not only would a motorcycle rally benefit the entire area, but it would also provide some of the most beautiful motorcycle riding in the country. Northwest Arkansas is ideally suited for a rally since it is located in the heart of the Ozark Mountains.

The original rally founders, Watson, Steve Ward (President of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce) and Neal Crawford (owner of Jose’s Mexican Restaurant), talked about the idea of starting a rally for about six years. During that time Bike Night at Jose’s was begun to give motorcycle enthusiasts an opportunity to come together and to determine how interested people would be in hosting a rally in Fayetteville.

Due to the success of Bike Night at Jose’s and overwhelming enthusiasm from local bikers and businesses, Ward presented the rally idea to the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors as a potential project for the city of Fayetteville.

After careful review and positive feedback from the community, the Chamber voted to host an annual motorcycle rally in the city of Fayetteville.

The Name.

During the organizing stage, Watson decided that the event needed a proper name. Someone suggested the word bikes be in the title, and another person pointed out that most rallies have blues artists, and another mentioned that barbeque should be added to the mix, thus christening our beloved rally as Bikes, Blues & BBQ.

Rally with a Purpose.

From the very beginning, the founders realized that although the three festival components — bikes, blues, and barbeque — would be enough to put on a great event, so much more was possible. They wanted to hold Bikes, Blues, & BBQ to a higher standard and give it a greater purpose.

First, they decided that the rally had to be an event where everyone was welcome, including children, so it had to be family friendly.

Second, the rally needed to give back to the community. Not only would the rally boost the economy, but the founders also felt the rally should donate the profits raised by the event to local charities.

Third, the founders felt one last thing was needed to complete the rally festivities — a poker run dedicated to charity. Kathy Johnson, working with Meals on Wheels at the time, was contacted to see if she would be interested in hosting the poker run during the motorcycle rally. She agreed and did an amazing job establishing one of Bikes, Blues & BBQ’s finest events. The Poker Run is now hosted by the Fire Fighters Association, and over 1,200 bikes participate.

Between the first and second year, the founders determined that the best way for Bikes, Blues, & BBQ to give to charity was to become a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, and to vote in a Board of Directors to help govern the event. The original board members were Richard Watson, Ken Mourton, Neal Crawford, Denny Tune, Charlie Goforth, Bill Ramsey, and Buddy Ledford.

Welcome to Bikes, Blues, & BBQ. We hope you have a great experience.

A Spirit of Giving Back

Bikes, Blues, & BBQ is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization and has donated over $1,500,000 to local charities since 2000. Bikes, Blues, & BBQ is also a recipient of the Arkansas State Tourism 2008 Henry Award for Special Achievement. The Henry Awards honor individuals and organizations that have made important contributions to the state’s tourism industry in the preceding year.