RALEIGH, N.C. – When visitors ride into the 10th annual Ray Price Capital City Bikefest in September, they’ll find a lot more than the three-day outdoor festival that has become the state's largest motorcycle rally. It’s even bigger this year with the first Ray Price Motorsports Expo inside the Raleigh Convention Center, featuring a custom bike show with $15,000 in prizes.
The new expo is a testament to the organic growth of the successful Capital City Bikefest, which Ray Price Harley-Davidson started 10 years ago and still anchors. (See photo, right, from the 2012 event, courtesy Ray Price Harley-Davidson.)
More than 85,000 people attended Capital City Bikefest in 2013, down from previous years due to poor weather, and yet the direct economic impact included $3.6 million in visitor spending. More than 100,000 visitors attended in 2012, for a direct economic impact of more than $5 million, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Organizers wanted to expand with something different but keeping the powersports theme, said Kris Weiss, Ray Price H-D’s director of marketing and promotions.
“We’ve been wanting to expand the Bikefest somehow, and the streets only have so much room. For years we’ve been eying the convention center just a block away. We thought it would be great somehow if we could expand in there,” Weiss said.
When they started planning, they projected the expo would need 50,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. The exhibit space is up to 100,000 sq. ft., and the event isn’t for a couple of months. First-year expo sponsors include Drag Specialties, Sta-bil, Custom Dynamics and Jet-Hot.
“The first couple weeks, you are hoping you are going to fill half the space and not fill it with pipe and drape,” Weiss said. “Then you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to double my event space.’”
Expanding into the convention center lets the Price organization bring in events they couldn’t do with the whole festival outside. “Some of these things would not work or there is not enough room outside on the downtown city streets,” Weiss said.
Some of those events include a bike show that is expected to bring in 100 custom builders from around the country; Weiss said 25 of 35 builders for an invitation-only category have confirmed, and the rest will participate in a ride-in show with separate prizes. The contest has $15,000 in total prize money.
“That means 25 different bike builders from around the country. Some of those names are on TV right now,” Weiss said. “We are also doing a build over the three days. That is a Ray Price Performance Team build.”
Both events are free and open to the public, so visitors can watch the progress of the custom bike build over the three-day event. There will also be family-friendly stunt shows, the Globe of Death and more. Organizers make sure the entertainment isn’t raunchy and the environment doesn’t encourage rowdy patrons. That helps keep attendance and public relations up.