This is what it looks like when bikers and flowers collide

image For three days each year, our little coastal town of 7,000 welcomes about 500 bikers and another 15,000 visitors to get crazy and celebrate… A flower.

A rhododendron, to be exact.

No one knows why.

But it’s been going on for 108 years and, for those three days, our town becomes an unlikely concotion of flower enthusiasts, Free Souls bikers and tourists all co-mingling over beers aand bacon-wrapped hot dogs. Think of it as “Sturgis meets Mardi Gras,” with a little Rose Festival thrown in. Personally, I think the bacon-wrapped hot dog is reason enough to celebrate, so I’m not going to suggest ending the festival anytime soon.

If you read Friday’s post, you know the festival kicks off with the arrival of the carnival β€” something that is always a bitter-sweet reminder of the loss of my best friend to cancer several years ago. As much as the festival reminds me of that loss, I also remember how much Jason loved this weekend each year, and some of the crazy things we did. Usually after a few beers.

Like when we dressed up as bikers and hung out with them at The Beachcomber.

We made some good friends that night even though we looked like a couple of rejected extras from “The Wild Bunch.”

Like Jason, who also worked here in the newsroom before I stumbled in 16 years ago, I’m always assigned to photograph the parade route along Bay Street. This is where the bikers congregate, lining their Harleys along both sides for several blocks. I’ve had nightmares about tripping over a chopper tire and sending a row crashing like dominoes, and then being invited to the Olympics after setting a new sprint record.

The truth is, it’s my favorite assignment. I look forward to it each year because I enjoy talking with the bikers; the challenge of trying to capture the unique moments that constantly present themselves; and for a little while at least, sharing Rhody Days with my friend while walking in his footsteps.

I’d like to share this year’s footsteps with you. I’d also like to illustrate that, despite what happened in Waco, bikers are like any other group: Whether it be police, ethnic group or religious affiliation, they are at the mercy of the stereotypes pepetuated by a relative few…

It isn’t often that you get to see rainbows and leather together. Not even in “50 Shades.”

Probably my favorite moment this year, this young man was lovingly monitored by different members of the group throughout the parade.

Probably my favorite moment this year, this young man was lovingly monitored by different members of the group throughout the parade.

This person lives here in Florence and rides his bike everywhere dressed like this, and not just for Rhody Days. He received applause on Bay Street, where he hung out for the remainder of the parade

This person lives here in Florence and rides his bike everywhere dressed like this, and not just for Rhody Days. He received applause on Bay Street, where he hung out for the remainder of the parade

Gayle is one of the owners of The Beachcomber, the bikers' favorite hangout on Bay Street. She is also in charge of the children's programs at th library. Yeah, she's pretty diverse

Gayle is one of the owners of The Beachcomber, the bikers’ favorite hangout on Bay Street. She is also in charge of the children’s programs at the library. Yeah, she’s pretty diverse

The biggest applause? It came when local soldiers came though

The biggest applause? It came when local soldiers came though

One of my favorite things about being on Bay Street for the parade is watching local families and bikers watch the parade together

One of my favorite things about being on Bay Street for the parade is seeing local families and bikers watch the parade together

Caught this on a passing truck. I'm sure the mud flaps are already in production, ladies

Caught this on a passing truck. I’m sure the mud flaps are already in production, ladies

As I mentioned, the carnival is bitter-sweet for me. Here's the sweet side

As I mentioned, the carnival is bitter-sweet for me. Here’s the sweet side

I’m going to end with a photo that means a lot to me because it includes my friend and first editor, Bob Serra, who hired me here at Siuslaw News 16 years ago. And before that, he hired Jason. Clearly he’s got great instincts at least 50 percent of the time. He’s moved on now, and even though it’s a small town we don’t get together nearly as often as I’d like. The Rhody Parade is one time each year I know I will get to see him, shake his hand and laugh together. He took a chance on hiring me all those years ago and I’ll always be grateful.

Except on deadline days…

Just in case someone wants to re-tool the “Blues Brothers” franchise

I know this is well off the beaten path of my normal posts. Then again, no one has ever accused my posts of being the work of someone who is normal. Thank you for taking a walk along Bay Street with me.

Oh, I should tell you there were horses in the parade, so you might want to check your shoes…

______________________________________________________________________________________

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

Advertisements

59 thoughts on “This is what it looks like when bikers and flowers collide

  1. That looks like so much fun, Ned, and I can see why you enjoy it. My city has a parade every year where you can see lots of leather and rainbows at the same time, should it be a thing πŸ™‚

    Even though it might be a different kind of post for you, I like to see the snippets of your life!

  2. Absolutely love your posts. I read your column in the SNEWS every week. Love Rhody weekend every year, 35 of them so far. The classic car show is my favorite Saturday event, and the parade and the bikers are the weekend faves.

  3. I loved this post and I especially loved the photos that came along with it! I grew up in a small town that had a main street that looked like this – it made me nostalgic.

  4. Thanks for bringing us along to the festival. When we bought our house, the property was badly overgrown. As I cleared brush and blackberries, I uncovered rhodie after rhodie. It turns out we have enough rhodies here to start our own festival (about 25). What a treat to see all the photos! You totally got me with the last line- caught me by surprise.

  5. I don’t care if this strays from normal. It is such a great post, filled with good people and happiness. God, the photos are spectacular!
    The sad and scary story of Waco sounded so very Sons of Anarchy and honestly, I never hear those stories. I hear many more about bikers coming together for good. We have Bike Week and Biketoberfest so we see many, many, many. They are good people and do a lot of good things. Thank you for highlighting that in the wake of a tragedy.
    I don’t really think it matters what you write, Ned. It will always be brilliant. No exception here. Thank you for sharing something so lovely.

    • I may be a bit biased whe it comes to bikers; my much older brother was a Hell’s Angel, and we always had bikers around the house. They were always polite, respectful and protective. In my experience, the only people who needed to be afraid of bikers were those who needed a lesson in manners.

      Thanks for the kind words, Sandyβ€” and for sharing in this.

  6. A great writer might have a genre but doesn’t depend on it. I think of Gene Weingarten, who writes a hilarious weekly column but won the Pulitzer for a decidedly unfunny piece. Dave Barry, another of my idols, wrote a beautiful post-9/11 essay detailing his observations from the field near Shanksville where Flight 93 crashed. My point here (now that I’m done rooting around for it) is that great writing evokes emotion and leaves abiding image, like your piece did.

  7. You know what? I love reading your stuff, because I know I am gonna laugh. It’s also nice to see something like this. I want to be there for next years festivities! The pictures say so much!!

  8. Are these your photos???
    I LOVE them! You captured personalities, layers, and sketches in time. You make it look like you were born with a camera (and a light meter) in your hand! LOVE!

    • Thanks, Michelle πŸ˜‰ I’ve been shooting for the paper since I started 16 years ago. Candids are my favorite, and I always use natural light β€” never a flash. But ask me to shoot a portrait and I’m dead in the water…

      • OMG! How have we not seen these?!? Candid is all that I do, too. I shoot family pics for friends and it’s never formal. Those type of photos are gifts. More please!
        Any chance you’ve read or viewed Sally Mann? Amazing photographer and writer…though the pics of her kids are considered controversial. I’m loving her book “Hold Still” right now!

        • I’ll have to check out her work, Michelle. It sounds amazing. I’ve thought many times about doing a second blog that’s just about photos I take, but I’ve got enough on my plate for now. Maybe next year!

          I’ve shot several weddings, and always explain that I’m not your traditional wedding photog. I’m all about the candids and capturing moments, not staging them. It’s kind of like combat photography. Except with cake and beer…

          • I have a second blog for photography. I started it about the same time MamaMick came on line. I was faithful with content and actually worked more over there than at my writing site for a while. However, the more I wrote, the more photos seemed to fit in with my prose. I keep the other site (michelleterryphotos.com), but I’m rarely over there any more.
            Regarding Sally Mann – the more I read, the darker I realize she is. The premise started as a memoir, but is really a song about the South and its slavery-drenched history. It’s gorgeous and sad all at once.
            Sorry for the ramble, I’m just so stoked that I learned about another side of you. A side that I hope we see more of !

            • One I get my “Nickel’s Worth” eBook wrapped up, I might start a photos-only blog, maybe with some narration to add context. I’ve seen the stuff on your photo blog and it’s really terrific, Michelle. You’ve got a great eye for composition and color.

              And I’m sure your other eye is just as talented πŸ˜‰

No one is watching, I swear...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s