The Twin Cities Come out of Hibernation
The Donnie Smith Bike Show is the place to be for snow-bound riders in the central Midwest who are struggling to get over the winter blues. With more than 160,000 square feet of floor space and as many as 15,000 attendees, it’s the Midwest’s largest custom bike show and swap meet.
Held March 26-27 in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, the Donnie Smith show is hosted at St. Paul’s expansive RiverCentre venue. There’s ample room to explore tons of wild custom bikes and loads of aftermarket vendors that will keep your machine up to speed and looking pretty.
A perennial highlight of the show is the massive Parts Extravaganza Swap Meet, which is always a happy hunting ground to find rare and desirable vintage parts. It takes place at the Roy Wilkins Exhibition Hall.
But the headlining feature is, of course, the bike show. It showcases some of the best bobbers, baggers, choppers, and custom cruisers anywhere, and there’s more than $7,500 in cash and prizes up for grabs to the builders who bring their best work to the show.
The event originally began way back in 1987 by legendary motorcyclist/collector/entrepreneur John Parham, famous for J&P Cycles. Back then it was a simple one-day swap meet. When the show transferred hands to promoter and builder Neil Ryan in 2000, his famous builder buddy, Donnie Smith, lent his name to the event.
The show has grown ever since, with Ryan transforming it into more of a social event than just a display. Festivities now take place over two days to accommodate the many vendors and big crowds before Covid put a crimp on plans in 2021.
Tickets cost a reasonable $15, and children 12 and under get in free. Ryan notes that kids are the next generation of riders, so he wants as many as he can to be exposed to the glories of motorcycles. Saturday’s show runs 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with Budweiser Happy Hour taking place 5-7 p.m. Awards are handed out Sunday when show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Winter in the snow belt is hard for everyone, and that’s especially true for motorcycle riders. Blow away the winter blues and kick off the riding season with a visit to the Donnie Smith Bike Show & Swap Meet. The “Minnesota nice” attitude of vendors and attendees comes free of charge.