The 99th Laconia Motorcycle Rally took place in Laconia, New Hampshire in June. The event was canceled or had reduced capacity for the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Laconia Motorcycle Week began on Saturday, June 11, and ended on Sunday, June 19.
Spirits were high, and attendees seemed thrilled to attend the nation’s oldest rally after a long wait, said Charlie St. Clair, the executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Since its start in 1916, the Laconia Motorcycle Rally has only missed a handful of years due to national and world events.
“I think people’s desire to get out had been impeded by COVID, and everyone, especially those I talked to from Canada, was thrilled to be back out and enjoying the beauty of our region,” said Laconia Mayor Andrew Hosmer.
A large number of motorcyclists from Massachusetts also regularly attend the rally. In past years, MassDOT estimated that more than 100,000 motorcyclists traveled through Massachusetts to and from the lakes region in New Hampshire.
This year's rally also drew many first-time participants, and many already booked hotel rooms to return next summer. The longstanding history of the event and the different landscapes New Hampshire has to offer, such as riding through quaint New England towns, the mountains, or along the Atlantic coast always draw large crowds. After almost a century, Weirs Beach continues to be the constant home base and heart and soul of the rally year after year. New Hampshire also has the fifth-highest motorcycle registrations per capita in the country.
The rally features events highlighting historical bikes, Harley-Davidson demonstrations, rodeos, and burrito-eating contests. In 2018, New Hampshire's Division of Travel and Tourism estimated the nine-day event brought in about $100 million for the state.
Laconia Motorcycle Week is among the nation's top three most popular motorcycle rallies (along with events in Daytona, Florida, and Sturgis, South Dakota), with more than 1 million combined riders attending the events.
The joyful resurgence of the motorcycle rally also proved deadlier than in past years.
Fatal Motorcycle Accidents During 2022 Motorcycle Week
While there was much to celebrate during motorcycle week, there is also reason to mourn.
There was a sharp increase in motorcycle accident-related deaths. There were at least five fatal motorcycle accidents statewide in New Hampshire, and another crash victim was still in critical danger as of June 22. Prior to the rally, there were seven motorcycle fatalities in New Hampshire this year. Sadly, one of these fatal accidents hit home for me, a friend of my wife’s husband was killed and she was critically injured and is still in critical condition as of today (July 14th).
This year was likely the most deadly motorcycle week in more than 25 years. The five fatalities mark the most deaths in a Motorcycle Week that Laconia Police Chief Matthew Canfield has been aware of since he joined the force 26 years ago.
“Each accident had its own story — which could have been prevented,” Cynthia Makris, president of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association board, told the Laconia Daily Sun. “People need to watch out for motorcycles and riders need to be more careful.”
Police Chief Canfield pleaded for everyone to pay extra attention and stop driving recklessly. He asked drivers to give themselves more time to stop and to look twice for motorcyclists. He also asked motorcyclists to hesitate before riding the line.
Deadly Motorcycle Accidents During the 2022 Laconia Rally
Five people died within four days of Laconia’s Motorcycle week, and at least four were seriously injured. “In terms of motorcycle accidents and fatalities, June is our highest month in both of those categories, unfortunately,” said Capt. Chris Vetter with the New Hampshire State Police. Helmets are not required in New Hampshire, but law enforcement still encourages riders to wear them.
Motorcyclist Dies After Collision with Trailer
- A 50-year-old Wolfeboro, New Hampshire man, Donald Pflug, died from injuries after his motorcycle collided with a trailer and another bike on Route 109 in Moultonborough. The accident took place Wednesday, June 15, around 1:45 pm.
- The man attempted to pass a truck pulling a boat on a trailer, but when he tried to veer back into his lane, he collided with the trailer instead and then collided head-on with a motorcycle in the oncoming lane. The two people on the oncoming motorcycle were seriously injured.
- Moultonborough Police have asked that any witnesses call the department at 603-476-2400.
Motorcyclist Dies From Off-Road Collision
- 47-year-old Marcy Whipple of Bangor, Maine, died after crashing into a telephone pole in Ossipee around 11:50 am on Thursday, June 16. Whipple was wearing a helmet and riding with a group of 13 motorcycles.
DWI-Driver Crash Kills Motorcyclist, Seriously Injures Passenger
- A Thursday, June 16 accident in Laconia involving a DWI driver killed a motorcyclist. The crash occurred soon before 7 pm on Weirs Boulevard when Paul Noyes, 27, of Laconia, crossed the centerline with his SUV and collided with the motorcycle head-on. The man operating the motorcycle died, and his wife, his passenger, was airlifted to a hospital in critical condition. The husband and wife, Peter and Brenda Reilly, both 57, are from Sandwich, Massachusetts. As of June 22, Brenda was still in a medically induced coma, and it’s uncertain whether she will regain consciousness.
- A witness who was driving behind the motorcycle said they saw the car drift over the lane. The motorcyclist tried to avoid a collision by getting as close to the guard rail as possible, but the car continued to veer until it collided with the bike and sent both passengers over the guard rail.
- The motorcycle was cut in two as a result of the impact. A detective on the scene believed Noyes was under the influence of illicit drugs.
- Noyes now faces two felony counts of aggravated DWI with serious bodily injury, one felony count of driving after suspension with death or serious injury, a misdemeanor count of driving after suspension, subsequent offense, and a misdemeanor count for driving a motor vehicle without an alcohol interlock device he was required to have installed.
Deadly Motorcycle and Jeep crash
- A man in his late 50s died when he took a turn on his motorcycle too sharply and collided with a Jeep on Friday, June 17.
Motorcyclist dead, passenger seriously injured
- A Saturday morning crash in Derry, New Hampshire, on June 18 killed 35-year-old Johnathan Warner and seriously injured his passenger. The crash took place around 4:45 am and involved a motorcycle and an SUV. Warner, who was operating the motorcycle, died at the scene.
- The crash is under investigation and anyone with information is asked to call the Derry Police Department at (603) 432-6111.
More than in past years, there was also an issue with riders performing road stunts and burnout. In addition to crashes and deaths, there also seemed to be an increased intensity among some riders. St. Clair believed that most of the burnouts were unfortunately led by locals. He referred to this as disheartening and disappointing, noting that burnouts, stunts, and overly loud bikes were amateur behaviors.
One potential reason for this change is due to who is attending the rallies. Many of the older riders who have been coming to the rally for years and years are retiring from the event, and younger riders are starting to have a stronger presence at the rally. Younger riders are more likely to race motorcycles and go off-roading with their bikes which can also increase the chances of accidents, injuries, and deaths.
Preparing for the 100th Laconia Motorcycle Week
Organizers have started gearing up for the 100th anniversary of motorcycle week in 2023. Laconia Motorcycle Week is scheduled to run from June 10 to June 18, 2023. They expect the anniversary to drive larger crowds and to offer more unique programming.
With the first century of the event coming to a close, organizers are also excited for what the next century will bring. As the oldest motorcycle rally in the nation, Laconia is often a leader in terms of what motorcycle rallies will look like nationwide.
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