DANIELSON — The streets of downtown Danielson were packed on Thursday with dozens of vendors, hundreds of motorcycles and thousands of visitors as the 3rd Annual Killingly Bike Night event roared into the evening.
Sidewalks were crowded with sleek Hondas, wide-bar Harleys, vintage cycles and even a few three-wheelers. Off Commerce Avenue, several tricked-out bikes were parked in anticipation of the night’s show bike contest.
Yellow-shirted volunteers waved checkered flags in the open streets directing incoming bikes with Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts plates to open spots. In front of Maury’s Pub on Main Street, Jim Theriault, of Killingly, stood near a pair of bikes representing different eras; a 1972 R75R BMW and a 2017 model.
“You’ll get people out here today that wouldn’t normally come to Killingly,” Theriault said. “It’s a chance to check out each others’ bikes, but also to show off the new businesses in town. And that information gets passed on by word of mouth so people come back.”
The event had the flavor of a street-long block party with bands pumping live music from several spots. Restaurants operating from trucks and tents did a brisk business selling hot dogs, sliders, kettle corn, ice cream and clam cakes. Local shops hung out signs welcoming the out-of-town bikers and stayed open late to take advantage of the heavy foot traffic. Rena Masson, owner of Tunk City Revival, said extending her store’s hours was a no-brainer.
“It’s not just a one-night thing,” she said. “After last year, had people coming back at Christmas and throughout the summer.”
Masson said Killingly is a natural fit for a bike-related event.
“We’ve got all these great back roads in the region that lead right into town,” she said. “People can go out and cruise and then maybe come here and poke around. It’s certainly going to be busier here tonight than an average Thursday.”
Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Mason, who came up with the Bike Night idea three years ago, said she was banking on big crowds for this year’s festival.
“We had 1,300 bikes last year and I’m shooting for 1,500 today,” she said. “I want people to come here and want to come back.”
Near Davis Park, a kids’ zone featured face painting, a bounce house and members of the Westfield Congregational Church dishing out barbecue pork, ribs and fried dough. Nearby vendors hawked leather vests, patches and other biker sundries. A watermelon carver sliced a face into a large gourd near a tent selling insurance.
Victor Burnett, of the Putnam-Brooklyn Chapter of the Christian Motorcycle Association, lounged in a folding chair near his Harley Davidson as cycles rumbled past.
“There’s not events like this in the area for bikers,” he said. “This is a quaint town, but there’s a certain magnetism to it.”