Informal poll on Beartooth Rally shows support

Bikes line up in Red Lodge at this year's 19th Beartooth Rally

An informal poll asking business owners in Red Lodge how they view the Beartooth Rally came back with 88 percent giving the event a positive response. The poll was organized by Ed Williams, president of the Red Lodge City Council, with the assistance of Aldermen Bill Larson and Bill Foisy to gage some feedback from an event that stirs the emotions of both sides of the Red Lodge community.

The poll showed that 39 percent of the business said their sales were up, while 49 percent indicated it was about the same. Regarding the monetary trickle down effect, 59 percent of businesses reported they do gain from residents who work these events spending the tips and other money they make during the event with many of the local merchants. Ninety-one percent of businesses said the Beartooth Rally should continue. Problems about the event were a call for more trash containers, better clean up of the streets and the need for more restroom facilities. Other issues concerned the temporary vendors impact on the local merchants. The number of vendors was 27 at the Rally this year, down by 3 from last year. Of this 14 were non-resort tax vendors, and 13 were resort tax eligible vendors. The amount of resort tax revenue collected from these vendors is not available until the end of the third quarter, Sept. 30. Resort tax collected in the third quarter for 2012 was $294,924.64. The City collected $2,350 from the temporary vendors business registration and for the street closure. The temporary policemen used during the Rally cost the City $11,698.77.

The issue of noisy mufflers having a negative impact on the community, 21 percent agreed, while 79 percent did not agree. The draft report talks of a lengthy discussion held with the Red Lodge Police Department regarding illegal mufflers. While it is apparent they cannot ticket everyone with an illegal muffler (both motorcycles and other vehicles) they make an effort to ticket the most obvious offenders anytime they are in Red Lodge. Both the Red Lodge Police and the Montana State Patrol issued tickets for illegal mufflers during the last few weeks. The report said consideration should be given to more aggressive enforcement involving illegal mufflers on both motorcycles and other vehicles. This has been a constant issue both during the Rally and at other times with many residents and it warrants the attention of law enforcement. Allowing the use of City owned land along both Rodeo Road and the 13th Street closure next to the Snow Creek Saloon has undergone extensive Council discussions during the last few years. The positive impact of allowing the street closure is that it congregates the crowds in a fenced location making it easier for both the police and the event organizers to manage the crowds. For the first time in recent years those requesting a street closure were charged a user fee for the closure. It is expected this fee will be increased next year if a street closure is requested.

Allowing the property along Rodeo Road to be used for camping eliminates some of the street camping that occurs in town as well as providing the participants who use this area a more secure place to stay while in Red Lodge. This year the Council, said the report, received a number of complaints regarding the amount of camping that occurred along City streets during the Rally. The Council should consider the options the City has regarding allowing campers, motor homes, etc. to camp along City streets year-round.

As reported in the Carbon County News, and in discussions with the Police Department, the issues experienced during the Rally by the police were very much like a normal summer weekend. The conclusion was that having sufficient numbers of police patrols helps to eliminate any problems of a serious nature. It appeared at times this year that the police congregated in larger groups (groups greater than three) that probably contributed to the perception there were too many policemen. Some of the changes suggested by merchants were a need for more motorcycle related events; the desire to have more family oriented and visitor friendly events; more noise control; more concerts or music events; there were too many police; to comments that the City isn’t promoting Red Lodge enough and needs to get more behind the events, and use money to advertise and promote events.

Another fairly consistent comment was to have more events that bring people to Red Lodge specifically during the “off” season. The general consensus states the report was that this was the quietest Rally most could recall. Most thought the crowds were down from previous years and the demographics were of a “more mature crowd”. It was also noted that it was not difficult to walk Broadway Avenue during the evening hours of the Rally, as the crowds were not as large as we have experienced in the past. According to Tim Buckstead, Rally organizer, the participants in the two poker runs sponsored by Bone Daddy’s were up between 8 percent and 12 percent.

Some of the businesses compared this event with the 4th of July, Crusin’ Red Lodge, the Stroll, Winter Carnival and Ski Joring, all o f w h i c h p r o v i d e a n increased volume of business for many of the merchants. For a few of the merchants, these other events generate more business for them than does the Rally — this points out the reason the merchants would like to see more events to bring people to Red Lodge.

The report states the 2013 Beartooth Rally was well run and presented very few issues. As Council considers how to improve the Rally and other future events, additional consideration should be given to the following: What can the City do to improve the handling of the trash and debris that occurs during these larger events? In addition, there are similar problems with trash and debris on many non-event weekends. How to more aggressively enforce the issues involving illegal mufflers on both motorcycles and other vehicles?

For some time there have been discussions regarding how to handle temporary vendors. In the opinion of the Council, the current business registration approach is not equitable. Since the temporary vendors rely upon many City services such as police, fire, water, waste water treatment, trash disposal, etc., it appears only equitable that the fees the City charges these vendors should be more in line with the services provided. The recommendation is that this issue be addressed before the start of the 2014 summer season.

A need to ensure that the temporary vendors do not use the sidewalks as part of their operation. An interesting suggestion from one of the merchants was to close a street to create a “Vendors Court” and require the temporary vendors to locate in the “Vendors Court”. The Council should consider this approach as a way of handling the temporary vendors. In many instances these temporary vendors rent space from other property owners along Broadway, which is another factor that must be considered.

The committee concluded from the survey “the Beartooth Rally clearly provides a large percentage of our merchants with a very profitable weekend and the City with Resort Tax funds that would not be available without this event. We have heard it said many times that a good portion of our merchants would not be financially viable without the summer season and the other events that bring people to Red Lodge. In addition to the benefits received by our merchants, many of the merchants in the surrounding areas benefit from these events as well.” “Another positive that occurs as a result of the events we have in Red Lodge is that some of the participants come to Red Lodge for vacations at other times during the year. We have been told of cases where these visitors become residents here and/ or purchase a home here after first being introduced to Red Lodge during one of the events.