Relationships are key when it comes to finding, preserving and restoring vintage pieces of the past. To uncover anything cool and worth preserving in Alaska, you had to have engaging relationships with all sorts of individuals. Unlike some vintage finds in the Lower 48, it’s unlikely you’ll just drive by some random place and see an old motorcycle or something else sitting outside. If it’s worth saving, it will be tucked away in an old shed, barn or other structure, protected from Alaska’s elements. So the only way to find that cool old stuff is to know people, and know them well. And that takes time.
Trying to meet the right people that had cool old collectibles hidden away was taking a lot more time than I’d planned. I was awestruck over the course of six months when I began to discover just what was out there hiding in the shadows of storage. But I realized how much work it took to meet all of the interesting characters that either knew who had the cool old stuff hidden away, or owned it themselves. If I didn’t do something my family/work/motorcycle hobby would soon be out of balance.
One thing led to another and I thought, “We need some kind of event for the cool old bikes to come out of hiding.” Sure we have other motorcycle shows in Alaska but nothing that was appropriate for the vintage world. We needed a show with no judging, no classes…nothing. Just a simple “show and shine” event that’s a fun time for vintage enthusiasts. So I secured a venue, music and booze, then worked backwards to organize Alaska’s first annual vintage motorcycle show.
For the show to be a success, people had to know about it. The demographic I worked to attract (old guys with cooler motorcycles than myself) weren’t regularly on Facebook or any social media for that matter. They may have had e-mail but then I would have to know their e-mail addresses to reach them.
The communication piece wasn’t the only challenge I faced planning the inaugural vintage show. I also had to make people feel comfortable about bringing their vintage stuff out of hiding. They needed a reason to bring these items out after sitting around for years. They may have been comfortable showing their vintage bike to a buddy down the street, but it’s another story asking them to put these labors of love on public display with a chance that somebody could step on, scratch, or knock them over.
The flipside, which I communicated to potential attendees, was that this event would bring together likeminded individuals to share and communicate about their common passion. And attendees would make new and lasting connections that can only happen at a vintage motorcycle show. Developing those relationships and making strong connections was a driving force for me to ensure the show’s success.
Another motivating factor behind this show was my desire to “merge” my day job as an insurance agent with my ever-growing vintage hobby. I found a way to do that by using my insurance agency resources, including temporarily reassigning one of my employees, to help promote and organize the event.
We put a lot of time and effort into attracting just the right mix of people and vintage pieces to our inaugural one-day show. The dossier of "Who's Got What Bikes Where?” spread throughout the state and as a result, we were full at 70 motorcycles, many nobody had heard of, as well as some really weird and interesting old stuff. The people were great and enjoyed sharing the stories behind the bikes on display. Between the bikes, music, weather and booze, the show ended up being a ten out of ten.
The day after the show we were communicated with the local Chamber of Commerce and secured 30% more space. We had planned to make this an annual summer attraction in Palmer, and the request from the chamber to expand our event solidified that this was just the beginning of something bigger.
We learned a lot from an organizational standpoint in 2015, and in 2016 we're growing to a two-day show with 90 bikes, a swap meet, local beer, clothing and antique dealers. It’s turning into a pretty cool destination event where we envision people coming from all over Alaska (and maybe further) to downtown Palmer for a weekend to enjoy all things vintage and make new and lasting connections with others who share a common passion to preserve historic pieces of Alaska’s past.
Credit: Nomad Cinematics (formerly Sons of Winter Productions)