By Darren Wright
The 41st Annual ABATE of Washington Spring Opener was held in Easton, Washington, June 27th through the 30th. It felt more like summer than spring, but I guess that is because it was held the first week of summer. We arrived at the Silver Ridge Ranch on Thursday afternoon and were greeted by Scott Robinson, who is the State Senior Deputy Coordinator. Scott showed us to our campsite which was nestled in the trees. The campground was already very full of RV’s, tents and other forms of sleeping arrangements. Even early on the first day, it was clear this would be a well-attended event. With a less than favorable weather forecast predicted, the numbers were down a little from previous years according to organizers. It’s a shame they chose not to come, because the weather was actually pretty nice.
This rally was a party atmosphere with a mission. The Spring Opener is the main fundraiser for the organization and the money is used in the fight for the rights of all motorcycle riders. ABATE is active in legislative activities and lobbying, including promoting good legislation and fighting bad ones. With fun, music and friendship being the theme, everyone I spoke with knew the true reason for the Spring Opener; to further the work and mission of ABATE. The chapters all proudly displayed their banners in their camp areas, which created an air of friendly competition among the chapters. Each chapter is responsible for an individual fundraiser, which included the poker run, bike show, biker games and the raffle.
My wife Sue and I got our camp all set up and decided to take a walk around to scope out the facilities. The ranch is a beautiful piece of land in the woods. Even with the large number of RV’s and tent sites, you still had a feeling of privacy due to the trees and layout of the ranch. We found people already settled in around their campfires enjoying good conversation.
We found the “Bowl” where we learned that most of the activities would be occurring at through the weekend. The Bowl is a very nice grassy amphitheater with a stage. People can dance down in the Bowl, or if you don’t want to sit on the grass, drive your motorcycle down into the Bowl and sit on it. Everything happens in the Bowl; bike games, music, dancing and the bike show.
The vendor row was already set up and ready for business. You could buy pizza by the slice or whole, roasted corn on the cob, or several other choices of food. You could have a shirt or sticker custom made with many humorous choices. There was a trailer where you could have your bike dyno tested or another where you could have your stereo upgraded while you wait. Of course, there were lots of accessories for your motorcycle or to update your biker attire.
It didn’t take long for some to find the karaoke on stage. There were some excellent singers belting out familiar tunes and creating a beat for people to dance to. Surprisingly, there weren’t any ear-splitting singers that are common when listening to karaoke, so it was good entertainment. Just a prelude to a lineup of bands we enjoyed through the weekend.
I had the chance to chat with Jimmy G who is the Spring Opener Committee Chairman. He was the organizing force behind the weekend events and finding the bands that provided great music throughout the rally. Jimmy’s vision for moving the event to Silver Ridge Ranch many years ago was to get “Back to the Woods” where people can “Make new friends in this brotherhood and sisterhood.” He hit the mark for sure. Everyone we spoke with was friendly and offered invitations to their camp areas for food and drink.
Friday morning there was a poker run sponsored by the Spanaway Chapter. The run started at the Turtle Town/Parkside Café and made several stops, including a stop at the Red Horse Diner in Ellensburg. The run continued down through the Yakima Canyon and up to Roslyn before returning to Easton. Returning from the poker run, we were greeted with music from One Gun Shy. They played a long set and did their best to accomplish Jimmy G’s goal to “rock the needles and leaves off the trees.” The evening band was Last Men Standing featuring Darin Jones. Another excellent band playing their own style of country music.
The first of many competitions was held with the burnout contest. When someone said “Smoke em if you got em,” they took it seriously. The entries were narrowed down to two finalists, who would face off later. We ended Friday evening with more live music. Powerhouse lived up to their name rocking the crowd for several hours.
We woke up Saturday morning to a wedding. Sophia Perez and Ron Smith from the Sky Valley Chapter were married at the rally in a small ceremony. They rode off on their motorcycle in true biker style, with the bride’s veil blowing in the wind and a parade of motorcycles following.
A staple of any biker event is the Bike Show. We all love to show off our bikes, and lots of them were entered in this Bike Show. Eight different classes plus a Best of Show were judged, from custom and antique to rat bikes. All judging was by voting of the crowd. Tim Hozjan won the Custom class and Best of Show with his custom-made ride. The people voted right; this was a very well-done bike.
Let the games begin! And there were plenty of games to play. People lined the edge of the Bowl to watch the events. There were some old favorites like the Slow Bike Race, the Tire Toss and the popular Wiener Bite which entertained the crowd. They added some new ones like the Keg Toss which was held for those who didn’t have a bike to ride, but still wanted to participate in the games. I think a few were disappointed that they didn’t get to empty the keg first; someone else had that fun already!
The largest group of participants I have ever seen competed in the bike games. After numerous rounds of side by side heats, the Slow Bike Race came down to a battle of the sexes with a lady rider taking on a male for the title. “Squirrel,” the lady rider, won the event to a round of cheers echoing around the Bowl. Squirrel’s bike also won 3rd place in the Bike Show Custom class!
A biker campout would not be complete without a Bikini Bike Wash. Freedom Seekers MC and Spanaway ABATE used the Bikini Bike Wash as their fundraiser. There was a steady flow of bikes rolling through getting clean. They had their work cut out for them, as the roads were all dirt and dust-covered, making the bikes quite dirty.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the raffle drawing. Four motorcycles and five guns were given away to lucky ticket holders. A 2019 H-D Street Bob, a 2019 H-D XL883 Iron and two CTW pit bikes were the prizes for the bike drawing. The gun giveaways were two different Rock Island .45 revolvers, a Henry lever action rifle, a Keltec KSG 12 gauge shotgun and a Taurus .44 Magnum 6” revolver. Nine people were very happy after the drawing Saturday night. And everyone who didn’t win still had a ton of fun watching and hoping.
The stripper pole was ignored most of the weekend, but Saturday night it finally got some exercise. For the guys hoping for some adult entertainment, they were disappointed, as the “dancers” were biker dudes having a good time. May have been some leftover liquid courage from the Moonshine Contest earlier in the day, and probably some additional hydration occurring throughout the night, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Some things just can’t be unseen.
The bands for the evening were Petty Fever and Jared Blake. Jimmy G saved the best for last. Petty Fever is a Tom Petty tribute band. You must look really hard to tell that it is not Petty’s twin brother. They sounded great and played a good variety of classic rock which brought a large crowd down into the Bowl to dance. Jared Blake closed out the night with some of the best music of the weekend. His blend of country music was enough to keep the Bowl full of people and bikes. It was a rocking party well into the morning hours, with everyone having a good time.
This was the first ABATE Spring Opener Sue and I have attended, and I was a little apprehensive not being a member. This didn’t last long at all. No one ever asked about membership; it was all about the comradery of a common interest. The motorcycle community came together for a weekend of fun and games, and we had a great time. A big thanks to Jimmy G, Scott Robinson and Lyle Coyle the State Coordinator who all made sure we had everything we needed and reminded me constantly to be sure and have fun. It was pretty hard to not have fun, so they did their job well, and put on a great rally. So next year, when the Spring Opener rolls around, don’t believe the weatherman, just plan to come to Easton and have fun.