For over a decade, I have helped at the Fall Ride in a variety of roles. A lot of towns wish they could have an annual event like this, and some towns have successful annual events that are comparable in size and logistics to the Fall Ride. Ones that come to mind are the Warrens Cranberry Fest, Port Washington's Fish Day, Cedarburg's Strawberry Festival and their Wine and Harvest Festival, Eagle River's Cranberry Festival, the snowmobile championship races in Eagle River, Hodag Music Festival in Rhinelander, etc... One may argue that the mixture of motorcycles, alcohol, and the element of darkness create unique challenges for safety and law enforcement, but overall the event seems to be well planned and coordinated. And with any event, there will be undesirable situations created by a small number of people who are out to make trouble.
For a lot of food and drink businesses, this weekend is their biggest of the year. Non-profits step up to help fill the need for food stands, as was apparent downtown on Friday evening when I was in town for the Thunder parade. Churches, civic groups, both local fire departments and other important groups that support the community are benefactors of the event through their work (and it is work) in running their respective food and drink stands. Do all food establishments in the area benefit? No. Historically at the Windmill, that weekend is comparable or lower than the ones before or after. We realize that we don't draw in the biker crowd, in fact we would likely make more money closing for the year and renting the place out to a vendor for the weekend. But we believe that our regular local and out-of-town weekend customers still expect to come in for a cone or two and we want to meet their expectations.
We cannot deny the fact that the Fall Ride puts Tomahawk on the map and in the media every year. After the Fall Ride this year, I heard the afternoon radio host on Milwaukee's top-rated newstalk station, who is himself a Harley owner, discuss his weekend and the great weather in Tomahawk.
Tomahawk is fortunate to host a regional event that ties its tourism infrastructure with a major local employer that has created a unique and loyal following among its customers. Can the event get bigger? Yes, but with the inevitable growing pains we seem to discuss each year. The more important question is "Should it get bigger?" That's for the organizers, the city, and the public safety groups to address, after soliciting and listening to public input.