COLUMBIA — Canopy tents and RVs decorated the outskirts of the Boone County Fairgrounds as bikers settled into their campsites on Wednesday afternoon.
"Hey, get out of the sun, come have a seat," was repeated as the campers offered to share food, drinks and music with passers-by on the second day of the National Bikers Roundup.
The fairgrounds seemed fuller than Tuesday. For Hedrick Cheung, a member of the Elite Riders motorcycle club out of Coatesville, Pa., camping at the roundup serves as a vacation for him and his family every year. Cheung, who said he has survived four heart attacks and three back operations and has a pacemaker, was pleased with the spot the roundup staff designated for his family to set up camp.
“Since I’m handicapped, they were nice enough to give us a level location near the facilities,” Cheung said.
Cheung has been riding for about 45 years. He estimated that he and his family have attended the national roundup every year for the past 10 years with other members of Elite Riders.
His family used to camp with a motor home but now they travel with a “toy hauler,” an expandable haul pulled on the back of his vehicle. On the way to the event, it holds his motorcycle, but when they arrive, he can enlarge it to become their living quarters for the next few days.
Like Cheung, Denise Reeves, another Elite Rider, was determined to make it to her first National Bikers Roundup despite her struggle with diabetes.
“I’ve never camped out before, but it’s nice,” Reeves said. She and her fellow campers had several folding tables holding a large spread of food. All of their meals will be at their campsite, she said.
So far, a contingent of Elite Riders has been camping and hanging out, Reeves said, eager for Saturday, when more bikers arrive and hip-hop performers such as Chingy and the St. Lunatics are scheduled.
Joe “Diesel” Shannon, treasurer of All the Kings Men motorcycle club out of Atlanta, and his three riding buddies — none of whom are affiliated with an official motorcycle club — have a decent-sized campsite where they plan on staying overnight most nights.
But they also reserved hotel rooms in case they can’t handle the heat.
“This is my first time camping,” Shannon said. “I normally just get a motel room.”
They arrived Wednesday morning and set up their large canopy tent and sleeping tent. He and his friends planned to grill steaks at their tent later and then walk around the fairgrounds in the evening to see what was going on and who was there.
James “Suzuki” Holt, a member of the King Riders motorcycle club out of Memphis, Tenn., arrived Tuesday morning and is camping with his motorcycle club until Sunday morning.
“So far, everything looks great,” Holt said. “I like the atmosphere, and everyone is really nice.”
Most of the campers interviewed said their decision to camp instead of commute from a hotel room was influenced by the convenience and social benefits the campsites offer.
A member of the High Desert Deuces Motorcycle Club who goes by the name Sassie said the location of her campsite near the big Nevada tent allows her to stay close to the events and be there as bikers come in and out. Nevada, along with Texas, is competing to be the site of the 2011 National Bikers Roundup, so the clubs in each state have big tents as part of their campaigns.
Sassie was passenger on motorcycles for 10 years and has had a license for one year. "I got tired of waiting for people," she said. "I wanted to get up and go."