Tourists on two wheels keeping Townsend businesses busy

Many of the visitors who will fill Valley View and Little River Lodge in early June will rev more than their motorcycle engines - they’ll also rev up the county’s economy.

The Tennessee Hog Rally will be June 4-7, and the Townsend lodge is the official host facility for the event.

“The national Hog Rally was held in Knoxville last year but every state also has their own rallies,” Kevin Maples said.

Pete Maples said events such as the Tennessee Hog Rally help the area economy. “This is good for all of Blount County, being a host hotel for Harley,” he said.

Pete Maples said there will be concert events at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson and Buell in Maryville as well as concerts and a bonfire at Valley View and Little River Lodge.

“What this is going to mean to Blount County is major,” he said.

Kevin Maples said there are riders staying at every hotel/motel and venue in Townsend. “They’re overflowing into Maryville.” Riders often spend $20,000 to $25,000 on their motorcycles, boots, clothing and other add-ons, he said.

Kevin said the economic impact of just the Harley rally will be significant because of the dollars riders will spend at various businesses as planners predict at least 3,000 riders coming to town. “You put 3,000 bikes on the road, that’s 3,000 bikers stopping to get bottled water, and they’re not hitting fast-food restaurants, they’re gong to sit-down restaurants.”

While the image of motorcycle groups like the Hell’s Angels comes to many people’s minds when they think of Harley-Davidson riders, Kevin said that’s not the case. “They’re not the old Hell’s Angels. Most are very successful business people who can afford to buy the bike,” he said.

The event is popular, and the motel is already booked up for that weekend. “I was full over a month ago,” Kevin said.

Motorcyclists are also planning to roll into the area for other events before the Harley rally in June. On Memorial Day weekend, the Blue Knights will visit Valley View and Little River Lodge.

“They’re cops who ride motorcycles,” said Kevin, explaining that the Blue Knights are also a nation-wide organization. The event will draw Blue Knights members from the Midwest to the Southeast.

Later in the summer, another large motorcycle group is coming to Valley View and Little River Lodge.

“On Aug. 18 for five nights we are hosting the international world-wide Suzuki Rally, the Cade Rade,” Kevin said.

In the fall, Valley View will host a smaller group of riders from Paducah, Ky.

Then, on Oct. 10 and 11, the hotel will host Big Pete’s Ride. “It’s a memorial ride they do every year, and they’re bringing it down here this year,” Kevin said.

Other riders visit Townsend in smaller groups throughout the summer. “I’ve got lots of 10- and 20-rider groups, motorcyclists coming from Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan - they’re coming from everywhere,” he said.

As motorcycles have become more popular, the Maple family has worked to position Valley View and Little River Lodge as a quick access point for riders.

“I’ve seen new business grow tremendously because of bikes and how popular they’ve become and being close to good rides like the Dragon and being near Cades Cove and the Smoky Mountains,” Kevin said.

Townsend is a good central point to make rides to the Harley-Davidson dealership in Maryville or Pigeon Forge. It’s also a near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cherohala Skyway.

Kevin Maples said Valley View and Little River Lodge has amenities for bikers like suites with three queen-sized beds. There are also breezeways and covered parking available.

Pete Maples said bikers, whether on motorcycles or bicycles, are welcome at Valley View and Little River Lodge.

“We like to think we’re a destination for bikes,” he said. “We’ve got bicycle groups coming from all over the United States.”

Kevin said that in 2007 the Trek bicycle group used the facility as they rode coast-to-coast.

For more information about Valley View and Little River Lodge, call 865-448-2237 or go to www.valleyviewlodge.com.

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