Bikes Blues and BBQ

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Bikes, Blues & BBQ Logo

Bikes Blues & BBQ (alternatively named Bikes Blues and Barbecue, or abbreviated BBB) is an annual motorcycle rally that takes place in Northwest Arkansas centered on Fayetteville, usually in late September.

As the rally approaches its twentieth anniversary in 2020 with an aging ridership and declining attendance, Executive Director Tommy Sisemore said "We have definitely tried to evolve the rally to attract new usership.",[1] having stated "I wouldn't have taken the job if I didn't think the rally was sustainable." [2]

The festival has a good safety record; in 2011, the Northwest Arkansas Times reported there were no fatalities.[3] "We call it 'playing dress-up' around here... we don't expect the Hells Angels," says Tommy Sisemore, Executive Director of BBB in 2018. [4] In 2017, the rally organizers banned Confederate flag and Nazi merchandise from being sold by official vendors, [5] inspected each day for any "lewd or offensive" material by an off duty police officer.[1] However white supremacist merchandise remained on sale in 2019, with local business owner Mel Collier defending the sale of Nazi paraphernalia on his property as good for the local economy[6].

With fewer attendees, organizers are trying to incorporate programming suitable for families. However, as reported in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in 2019, a mother

... said she and her family aren't overly sensitive or easily offended. It just wasn't what they expected in the middle of the day. "If it were not advertised as family friendly, that wouldn't have bothered me," [she] said. "I've been to bike rallies. I expect to see that. But when you advertise as family friendly, that shouldn't be ... it was like taking children to a bar."[7]

The organizers of Bikes Blues & BBQ have estimated attendance as having grown from 200,000 participants in 2004, 300,000 in 2005, 400,000 participants for a few years in the late 2000s, declining in subsequent years.


The event is billed as the "Largest US Charity Rally",[9] although there have long been questions about the overall scale of this support: In 2006 and 2007, the event raised $100,000 (an estimated $0.25-$0.30 per attendee); in 2008 charitable contributions were suspended despite record attendance.[10] In 2009 contributions totalled $48,500, or approximately $0.15 per attendee. In the 2010 press release announcing the organization had raised a total of $80,000 from 400,000 attendees, its director Nelson Driver was quoted as saying "This is what it’s all about." [11] In 2016, Bikes Blues & BBQ contributed the most money to date, $230,000 generated from an estimated 350,000 participants, or about 65 cents per attendee.[2]

Over the years, the rally has had mixed support from the community with complaints of noise and congestion. Paradoxically many local business owners report steep declines in revenue during the event.[12][13] In 2016, the Fayetteville City Council considered an ordinance that would force discussion of the impact of large festivals such as Bikes Blues and BBQ on local businesses. However, despite BBBBQ's negative impact on most small business owners, no public reason has been given for this ordinance being tabled indefinitely.[14]

The City of Fayetteville has not tracked sales-tax revenue but estimates the rally brings in approximately $80,000; some have questioned why this amounts to just $10 in taxed sales per attendee.[13]

A sister festival, Bikes Babes and Bling, was first held July 1–3, 2010, also in Fayetteville. The City of Fayetteville provided subsidies to both the 2010 and 2011 Bikes Babes and Bling festivals.[15] In 2010 the sister festival drew approximately 5000 participants; the Northwest Arkansas Times reported that "only a few dozen people" were at the site midday on the main day of the 2011 festival.[16]

In addition to the rally, there are many bands, a parade, a bike show, a bike giveaway, barbecues, the Bikes, Blues, and BBQ Babes contest, and many other official and unofficial events. Its organizers have claimed the rally is second only to Sturgis.[17][18][19]


  1. ^ a b Stacy Ryburn (September 23, 2018). "Rally staying relevant, say organizers". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. pp. 1B, 5B.
  2. ^ a b "Bikes, Blues & BBQ doles out most money to charities in 17-year history". Retrieved 2016-12-20.
  3. ^ Kate Ward (2011-10-05). "No Fatalities During Cycle Rally". Northwest Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2011-10-05.
  4. ^ Becca Martin-Brown. "Sweet Home Arkansas". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  5. ^ Dustin Bartholemew. "Local organizations look to spread inclusive message during Bikes, Blues & BBQ". Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  6. ^ Tolbert, Autumn (2019-09-28). "Bikes, Blues and Nazi merchandise". Arkansas Times. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  7. ^ "Organizers try to keep Bikes, Blues & BBQ friendly for the family". Arkansas Online. 2019-09-22. Retrieved 2019-09-29.
  8. ^ "Bikes, Blues & BBQ 2006 Review". Bikes Blues & BBQ Official Site cache. Archived from the original on 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2007-02-28."General Bikes Blues and BBQ Info". Lightning Customs. Archived from the original on 3 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  9. ^ "Bikes Blues & BBQ "Largest US Charity Rally"". Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  10. ^ "Bikes, Blues & BBQ resumes charity donations". Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  11. ^ "BBB Announces Charitable Giving for 2010". Bikes Blues & BBQ Official Site. Archived from the original on 24 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-19.
  12. ^ "Underwood Questions Legality of Bikes, Blues & BBQ Activities". NWA Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  13. ^ a b "Bikes, Blues and Bother: Residents sound off on Fayetteville's motorcycle fests". Ozarks Unbound. Archived from the original on 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-09-24. Retrieved 2016-09-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)\
  15. ^ "A&P funding request deadline is this Thursday, April 1". Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  16. ^ Chris Freiberg (2011-06-12). "Low Turnout For Bikes, Babes & Bling". NWAOnline. Retrieved 2011-06-14.
  17. ^ Nicholson, Ed (2005-09-24). "Big'uns: Bikes Blues BBQ and Big'uns". Retrieved 2014-05-16.
  18. ^ [1][dead link]
  19. ^ [2][dead link]

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 36°03′59″N 94°09′56″W / 36.06646°N 94.16542°W / 36.06646; -94.16542