COLUMBIA — In the winter of 1977, the National Bikers Roundup began as a modest indoor get-together of motorcycle clubs from about 200 miles around Kansas City.
According to the National Bikers Roundup website, membership includes a $2,000 accidental life insurance policy, access to the hospitality tent at the roundup and members-only products along with other benefits.
To become a new member, one must fill out a membership form and mail it to the headquarters. Becoming a new member also requires an initial fee of $40 with a renewal fee of $35 every subsequent year.
For more information about the National Bikers Roundup or to become a member, contact the headquarters: P.O. Box 270849, Kansas City, MO 64127. Phone is (816) 483-0304; fax is (816) 231-2625.
Rozell “Breeze” Nunn, a founder of the National Bikers Roundup and national co-chairman, described that first weekend.
“A couple of us knew of (predominantly Caucasian) motorcycle clubs like Sturgis, so we decided to try and do it ourselves as a weekend thing, so we could get back to our families on Sunday,” Nunn said.
After that initial meeting, which had fewer than 50 people, the bikers decided to travel to Omaha, Neb., for a weekend camp out that summer and included more bikers. From there, the roundup grew. By 1982, it had been held in Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado.
“It got so big, we had to make it the ‘National Bikers Roundup’ because it’s nationwide,” Nunn said. “We usually start on a Tuesday, and it goes the whole week.”
The annual event now brings in tens of thousands of bikers to a different hosting city every year. This year, starting Tuesday, is Columbia's turn. The event has grown from occupying five acres to requiring a minimum of 100 acres. The roundup returns to its Kansas City roots every 10 years to celebrate another decade.
Nunn said the roundup’s emphasis on family activities has contributed to its growing popularity. “It doesn’t matter what club you belong to, you can bring your kids and all have fun,” he said.
The roundup acts as a homecoming of sorts as motorcycle clubs and bike enthusiasts travel to reunite with friends and other bikers.
“I look forward to seeing people every year that I know I’m not going to see except at the roundup,” Nunn said. “The good thing is that we go to different states and cities every year so (the bikers) can see the United States.”
Some motorcyclists attend the roundup on vacation from their full-time jobs while others make the event more profitable, and sell goods and services such as leather wear, bike decals and handmade jewelry as vendors. Nunn said he is impressed by how big the roundup has become over the past 33 years, not only in terms of participants.
“Back then, we only rode one or two different bikes, and now we got 10 to 15 different brands of motorcycles,” Nunn said.
Women have gone from riding behind as passengers to forming all-female motorcycle clubs, Nunn said. He predicted that about 100 female motorcycle groups will come to the National Bikers Roundup this year.
As the number of attendees grew, so did the entertainment offered. Formerly relying on cooking for themselves and on local entertainment, the roundup started selling vending spots in the late 1980s for vendors to sell food and merchandise.
As a founder of the roundup, Nunn said the biggest misconceptions people have about bikers are based on how they are portrayed in TV and in the movies.
“They forget that some of us are doctors, lawyers, senators," Nunn said. "If you are a biker with colors on, it doesn’t mean you are a bad person,” he said referring to the emblems for clubs that bikers wear on their vests.
If Nunn wants the residents of Columbia to know one thing, it is that the National Bikers Roundup is made up of friendly motorcyclists who want to meet up and talk about bikes.
“We’re all good people,” Nunn said. “We are just here to have fun and leave on Sunday.”