Laconia, New Hampshire’s Bike Week is a motorcycle rally that has successfully pulled in large crowds since 1923. Attendance has ranged from 188,000 to 375,000 people. Despite the track record of fatal motorcycle accidents in the area during the event, it has always been relatively peaceful. Until the summer of ’65.
Riots involving around 10,000 people between motorcycle gangs and local police caused the City of Laconia to crack down on the event. Laconia officials no longer saw bike week as a source of tax income, but an inconvenience.
Laconia restricted the event to three days rather than the full week and attendance started to drop. When the city started feeling the loss of money in their pockets in the ’90s, they invited the organization to bring back the week-long festivities.
Here we are today. Bike week at Weir’s Beach in Laconia ran from 1923 to 1965 on its own in peace. A riot, which the state alleges the Hell’s Angels started, brought bureaucratic control to the event.
I was able to attend one day for CopBlock’s week-long event at Laconia. Every police department in the area shows up in force. Five departments including state troopers, county sheriffs, and even the department at the University of New Hampshire show up for patrol. Small towns that only have a few officers to spare send one or two on a few days out of the week. And the national guard sent around fifteen soldiers in a “non-law enforcement capacity.” According to the UNH officer in the video below.
Aside from a few crashes on the highways (one fatal), the event was peaceful. Happy, even. Everyone was in a good, talkative mood. Even the groups of officers found on every corner were having fun. But this police presence came at a price.
LaconiaFest, the music festival headlining Ted Nugent, shut down on Saturday early after Nugent’s performance. The festival manager said the city overestimated how many people would show and charged more than expected for first responders.
The police who were in groups on every corner, having a fun time, was costing the festival too much. It raises the question, were they necessary, and how willing was the city to send officers home to keep costs down?
The state lacks the ability to respond to the market in a timely manner. If the City of Laconia had a disagreement with festival managers on this issue, I think the city should have listened. The festival I saw did not require four cops on every corner and it did not deserve to have its funding drained by a forced monopoly.