Despite a pandemic, record turnout is making the Ozarks Bikefest a major American Rally

Words by Kali Kotoski     
Photos courtesy of Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau

When local tourism officials took to the sky in planes and helicopters to get an aerial survey of Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest in September, swarms of bikes were parked along the streets and a seemingly endless stream of motorcycles could be seen joining the hive. 

“We could see 100 square miles and bikes were coming in from every direction,” recounted Tim Jacobsen, Bikefest Committee Member and Executive Director of the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau. 

Lake of the Ozarks, a huge serpentine reservoir centrally located in Missouri between Kansas City and St. Louis, has long been a summer playground for water-related activities. But with growing attendance, it is now becoming a premier destination on the summer rally circuit. And the Bikefest has grown even more this year with many rallies cancelled due to pandemic concerns, making it one of the few in the region that can satiate pent-up frustrations from a shaky economic recovery and public health concerns. 

From the sky, bikers could be seen coming from every direction to the 2020 Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest.

“We estimated that 125,000 motorcycles and 155,000 people were in attendance for the [five-day] rally,” said Jacobsen, adding that in 2019 they estimated that 100,000 people attended. 

With highway patrol out in full force to make sure everybody arrived safely and orderly, riders had police escorts from both the east and the west. While Jacobsen noted that there were plenty of clubs and colors, there were no incidents and only a few wrecks given the size of the event. There were also no fatalities. 

Lake of the Ozarks is a huge serpentine reservoir in Missouri that is a summer playground with some 40,000 homes along its shores.

“One of the biggest differences we saw this year was people arriving a lot earlier than previous years and staying longer,” Jacobsen said. 

The economic boom the rally creates for local participating businesses and restaurants can’t be understated, he added.  

“The economic impact is huge. Luckily, we have the infrastructure to handle the event. My opinion is that our local bars and restaurants create the environment for us, and we just take the backdrop of the lake and roads to promote it,” he said. 

A lot of the riders enjoyed the lack of a helmet law once they were off of the freeway, according to feedback the tourism office received. 

Unlike the Sturgis rally, Jacobsen said that OEMs participated with demo rides this year and more sponsors and high-quality vendors showed up to please the crowds. 

Unlike at Sturgis, Harley-Davidson came out with its demo truck.

“The communities of the Lake Area welcome and prepare each year to host this event and the local businesses continue to exceed the bikers’ expectations,” said Jacobsen.

The Passport Program, a $20 event with 24 locations to visit and receive stamps, led to Jason Daggs, from Ewing, Missouri, winning a 2019 Harley-Davidson FLHP Road King Police Motorcycle. The program is a supported by Full Throttle Magazine, Lake of the Ozarks Harley-Davidson and the Lake of the Ozarks tourism association with proceeds being donated to the local chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association, Fishers of Men. 

“We have a great event, wonderful weather and we expect the rally to continue to grow steadily,” Jacobsen said. 

The 2021 Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest is scheduled for September 15 to 19. Check out to stay informed of upcoming activities and details of the 15th Annual Lake of the Ozarks Bikefest. 


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