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Gunstock hill climb: 'the Wednesday party of Bike Week'

Mercedes Covill has a poster signed by her favorite dirt biker, Shawn Farnsworth. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
June 23, 2010
The 18th Annual Motorcycle Hill Climb at Gunstock brought in 7,000 spectators and over 250 hill climb and drag race participants to the mountain last Wednesday.

Participants as young as 4 rode their 50cc dirt bikes, Harleys and ATVs up the mountain during drag races for Ridge Runner competitors, taking speedy rides up the mountain and wowing thousands of onlookers.

Riders came in from all over New England and throughout the country to compete in the notorious hill climb.

Although the usual vendors graced the event along with a live band, a wall climb, and a 50/50 raffle, it was a first visit for the president of Harley Davidson, Keith Wandell, who decided to take a detour on his way to Laconia to see what the hill climb is all about. He surprised many bystanders during the course of the day by shooting out t-shirts wrapped up with $10 gift cards.

Gunstock Marketing Director Bill Quigley said the annual hill climb was the first of its kind in the country when it started and is the largest amateur hill climb in North America.

"The hill climb started years ago in the 50's into the late 70's and early 80's. Then it dissipated and came back in 1992. It has always been held during the Wednesday of Bike Week," said Quigley.

Gunstock also used to hold the gypsy ride and a vintage race for a number of years for people who are passionate about bikes, although the hill climb has always been the main event.

In this incarnation, it would be the 18th annual event, along with the fourth year for the additional side-by-side drag race.

"In our biggest year, we had about 10,000 people. It is really weather related. We have about 7,000 today, and the parking lots are still filling up. As Bike Week changes, people are staying up later and getting up later," said Quigley. It's just a fun day. We have special events and guests. It's the Wednesday party of Bike Week."

People will often camp out before the festivities of the day, or ride in on their motorcycles in groups of 50 to 100 in the morning hours.

Gunstock was also showered by many organizations such as the Special Olympics, the Gunstock Nordic Association, and groups promoting the upcoming NASCAR event in late June.

Although Gunstock staff members enjoy watching thousands of people have a blast by the hillside of a mountain while soaking in the sun and providing a place for organizations to fundraise at the same time, Quigley said working with local authorities during a hectic week has been a pleasure as well.

"The neat part is, it's such a great combination of working with local authorities on Bike Week. We work really well together, and it's fun," said Quigley, referring to the Belknap Sheriff Department.

Winners in each class for the hill climb were presented with trophies last Wednesday, while top competitors in the drag race based their performances off of points. Totals were expected to be posted after the event on ridgerunnerpromotions.com or the official Gunstock Web site.

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