COLUMBIA — The National Bikers Roundup did not bring as many bikers as anticipated, but authorities still called the event a success.
Before the roundup began, a forecast by the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau pegged the expected attendance at around 35,000, which executive director Lorah Steiner called a conservative estimate in a previous Missourian article.
With the roundup now concluded, the bureau estimates 25,000 came to Columbia, Steiner said.
Crowd estimates from the Boone County Sheriff's Department for the event were significantly lower. Sheriff Dwayne Carey estimated that the roundup brought 15,000 to 18,000 people a night to the Boone County Fairgrounds at its peak. Carey admitted attendance counting is an inexact art but said he felt "pretty good" about the department's estimate.
"I heard ridiculous numbers like 50,000, 25,000, but in reality it was much lower than that," he said.
The department said the fairgrounds saw an average of 8,000 visitors during the daytime and that 8,000 to 9,000 camped on the fairgrounds each night.
Steiner said the roundup injected $6 million into the local economy, which she said the visitor's bureau had previously called the minimum amount expected. To get the $6 million, she used a formula based on the number of occupied rooms in hotels within a 45-mile radius of Columbia.
Steiner said every hotel was full as of the Monday before the roundup.
The number of people at the roundup might have been fewer than expected, but Steiner said it still resulted in a nice economic boost for the city and beat expectations in other ways.
"I think the roundup divested a lot of people of stereotypes," Steiner said.
Steiner said there was "almost a hysteria" about the roundup coming to town; now she is hearing about how the bikers were a great group of people. "I think things went incredibly well," she said.
"I was really pleased with how it went," Carey said. "Ninety-nine percent of these folks are great people ... it was the 1 percent that we planned for."
Carey said the department began security preparations in February and didn't run into any surprises when the event finally came to town. "We kinda had it nailed down beforehand," he said.
Jill Wieneke, public information officer for the Columbia Police Department, said the roundup caused few problems. A coordinated effort between the Police Department and the Sheriff's Department allowed the agencies to funnel traffic into and out of the fairgrounds with no major problems.
Despite the large number of motorcycles present on roads around the city, no injury accidents were reported that involved the bikers, Wieneke said. Noise also didn't appear to be as big a problem as expected: Columbia police received about five noise complaints between Thursday and Sunday from residents within the city limits.
Although the National Bikers Roundup has packed up and hit the road, Columbia residents can expect more bikes in the near future. The city is hosting another motorcycle rally on Aug. 26-28 as the 2010 Missouri State H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) Rally comes to town.