The Boone County Fairgrounds were packed with rows of vendors selling drinks and plenty of food, including pulled pork, fried chicken, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, frozen margaritas and cold beer. Other vendors sold bikes and motorcycle-related attire and merchandise.
Dava, a Mid-America Harley Davidson employee at the merchandise tent, had a positive impression of her first National Bikers Roundup. “It’s been good. Everyone has been very friendly — even though it’s 100 degrees out here,” said Dava, who goes only by her first name.
On Tuesday, the heat index in Columbia reached 108 degrees and the high temperature was 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Harley Davidson has a variety of demo bikes on display, available to be test-driven so long as the rider has a valid motorcycle license. The dealership also has a motorcycle, a 2010 Iron 883, up for a Saturday raffle with tickets going for $20 a pop.
Those who braved the heat to check out opening day had places to cool down, such as cooling stations equipped with air conditioners, fans and ice packs. Leron "Coach" Metts, head of the equipment committee for the roundup, drove around in a golf cart with a cooler of water to ensure the workers were properly hydrated.
"It's very hot," Metts said, laughing at the obviousness of the comment.
In midafternoon, the golf carts had no trouble navigating the fairgrounds because relatively few people were out looking around. Rozell "Breeze" Nunn, a founder of the 33-year-old National Bikers Roundup, said most were either in their air-conditioned RVs and hotel rooms or taking a look at Columbia. But he predicted that by evening, the fairgrounds would fill up.
Traffic was smooth during the day on Tuesday, a release from the Columbia Police Department said. Congestion around the fairgrounds is more likely Thursday through the weekend when live entertainment is scheduled.
Nunn, also national co-chairman of this year's event, explained that although a significant number of people arrive on the first day, many, traveling from across the country, do not come until later in the week and into the weekend.
“It’s been hectic on the first day, but it always is,” Nunn said.
Metts said that as more bikers come into town for the roundup, he hopes the local community will also attend.
"That's the beautiful thing about (the roundup)," he said, "having the public come out and see who we really are."
Leonard “Truck” White, one of the road captains of the Iron Souls motorcycle club out of Oakland, Calif., left Las Vegas on Saturday so he could get to Columbia by Sunday evening. Richard "Gil" Gilbert, an original member of the Iron Souls, rode in from Southern California.
White, wearing black jeans and a black leather vest, seemed surprised when asked how he was handling the heat dressed in dark clothing. He said he hadn't thought about it and was trying not to.
"You just have to suck it up," he said.