BELDING — A weeklong summer event expected to bring thousands of visitors, and with them, thousands of dollars for local businesses, will be coming to downtown Belding in 2014 after Belding City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the proposal for the first ever Rivertown Bike Week Expo.
The weeklong event, an educational expo convention for motorcycle enthusiast, hosted by the event management and production company, Rivertown Bike Week, will be held from July 22 to July 27 next year.
Event liaison Craig Crebessa said the event will be a gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts from all makes and models of motorcycles who are looking to further their knowledge through educational seminars in an expo-like setting.
“Bringing an event like this downtown makes sense,” he said. “I envision the downtown area being shut down like it is during the Labor Day Festival or during Gus Macker. By bringing it downtown, there’s more of a benefit to the city. With this event, we’re actually putting money into the city directly.”
The event would be shared between downtown Belding, the Grattan Raceway and Double R ranch.
Crebessa said he expects hundreds of motorcycle vendors to be on hand for the weeklong event, bringing in motorcycle enthusiast from across the country.
“There would be roughly 140-150 vender booths spread throughout Central Riverside Park and the Covered Village Mall,” he said. “We’re talking all of the big names, like Kowasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson and BMW, who will bring in their wonderful show trailers and have them on display here in Belding.”
Crebessa said there will be no cost of admission, with an estimated attendance of 32,000 visitors visiting the city of roughly 5,500 in population throughout the week.
The expo will also have local food vendors, bands and other family-friendly activities. Motorcycle industry experts will hold public seminars every day of the event to help motorcycle enthusiasts who travel to the city to learn more about safety, aftermarket parts, clothing and other motorcycle lifestyle-related products.
“This event would be placed into the top eight bike events across the nation,” Crebessa said. “It’s going to attract a lot of attention and bring much needed money into downtown Belding.”
With thousands of bikers expected to attend, Crebressa said all motorcycle traffic will be relegated to Bridge and Ellis streets, with additional smaller streets shut down for parking.
“We want to respect the residents here in Belding,” he said. “You’re not going to see these motorcycles driving on side streets, there will be signs notifying them to stay on designated roads.”
He added that all events would conclude each day by 9 to 10 p.m.
According to Rivertown Bike Week Committee Co-Chairman Mark Mensch, because Belding lacks proper lodging with only one hotel, Double R Ranch in Smyra will be used as a campsite for guests of the city.
City Manager Meg Mullendore said her biggest concern about the event is that the city receives proper compensation for use of the police department for additional security, other city workers and city facilities.
Mensch said with a title sponsor already locked into place at more than $100,000, reimbursement to the city will not be an issue.
Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Belding said in her four years of being on city council, she has never been approached with a significant event for the city such as this this before.
“I think there’s still a lot of questions out there, but I find this encouraging,” she said. “I think it’s nice to see some thoughts that are outside the box. It’s going to be appreciated if we move forward with this and do draw people to Belding.”
Mullendore said in her conversations with Crebessa and Mensch, she saw no major concern to prevent council members from moving forward with approving the event.
“Based on my conversations with Craig, I think we’ll be fine,” she said. “The event appears to be solid and there are a lot of pros that we here in the city can recognize and take advantage of. My biggest concern is that we don’t do anything where we abuse our equipment or labor without being compensated. These are taxpayer dollars we are talking about.”
The event will work to raise money for The Wounded Warrior Project, with a minimum donation of $25,000 expected. Mensch said the event will look to donate toward local charities as well.
Councilman Joe Feuerstein was absent from Tuesday’s meeting at the Pere Marquette Depot, so he did not vote.