PD 13 – Version 50.0

photo credit: Eric Vengroff

By Eric Vengroff

As a motorcycle enthusiast, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live near a place like Daytona Beach, with two weeks a year devoted to motorcycles or Sturgis, South Dakota with one. It would sure be convenient fun, while leaving the locals with the noise, the crowds and the cleanup. Fortunately for those like me living in Toronto we have Americade, just eight hours away in Lake George, NY. Not right around the corner perhaps, but not transcontinental either. But there is another event with a less regular schedule just two hours away; Friday the 13th in Port Dover, Ontario.

The curious can Google the origins of this event, but suffice it to say that a group of 20 bikers gathered here on Friday, November 13th, 1981 for reasons only they will understand, and the tradition has been carried on since then. This summer’s event marked the 50th ‘Friday-versary’ of this event, and the estimated crowd of 150,000 set a new record.

I haven’t been to every one of these celebrations in Port Dover since the inaugural event. Nor would I intend from now on. Time of year, weather, and lack of available time, always dictate my decision. I attended my first gathering in April, 2001. Normally, mid-April would be about the earliest one would want to be traveling Ontario’s roads by motorcycle. Unpredictable precipitation and cold temperatures would be among the leading deterrents to attending, certainly. Fortunately for me, that day turned out to be cool but sunny, and not too busy, as many likely still had their bikes in winter storage. Since then, I’ve been rained on a couple of times, usually after arriving, and avoided many more unpleasant outings simply by staying put.

The weather forecasts for this year seemed none to promising either, and local forecasters were predicting rain right up until the day before. However it remained sunny and warm all day, making the go/no-go decision an easy one for the many riders who piled into this quiet town of 6,000 by the shores of Lake Erie. The photo above, taken at the centre of town, doesn’t even begin to capture the scope of the bikes and the humanity gathered in such a small space for such a short time. I have to say that O.P.P. had handled things very well. They blocked off car traffic well outside of the municipal boundary, leaving the road to motorcycles. Although the campgrounds on the outskirts of town looked reminiscent of Woodstock, and there were probably as many uniformed officers as there were members of the biker gangs in attendance, everything remained peaceful by all accounts.

Our group headed back to town after we had our ‘perch burgers’ (this area is famous for the amount of perch and pickerel they catch here) and we beat the bulk of the rush hour traffic home.
Across a number of parts across the U.S. and Canada, communities in search of the biker mystique and biker spending power are creating their own ‘Bike Week’s of late. Heck, there was even one in Gettysburg when I went through it last month. What’s next? Civil War re-enactments on Daytona Beach? Even if it comes to pass that other events become the next destination for bikers to go to, I doubt few will equal the fun, easy going and impromptu nature of Port Dover’s Friday the 13th.