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If you read last weeks post you can probably tell that springtime is one of my favorite times of the year, for riding. The weather has a lot to do with it, but to be completely honest, the biggest reason I look forward to spring happenings just a little ways up the highway from my Melbourne home is because of the worlds biggest bike rally, Daytona Bike Week.

From March 4th through March 13th, over a half million motorcycle enthusiasts will descend on Daytona Beach and the surrounding area. It is always a great event to visit, but this year is extra special because it is the Diamond Anniversary of this auspicious happening.

Just a Little Daytona History

The very first Bike Week in Daytona was held, not in the spring, but on January 24, 1937. This wasn’t actually bike week, it was the inaugural running of the “Daytona 200 Motorcycle Race” or the “Handlebar Derby” as local reporters called it, at that time.

The race was run on a 3.2 mile, half sand, half street course located just south of Daytona proper. Many felt that the scheduling of the race was rather late in the day, but there weren’t a lot of options as to the timing of the race, due to half the course being underwater except at low tide.

The very first winner of the Daytona 200 Race was Ed Kretz of Monterey Park, California, who averaged 73.34 mph riding an American built and self customized Indian. Unfortunately, after this historic win, this iconic motorcycle brand would never again see a Daytona checkered flag, with Harley Davidson coming to dominate in the years leading up to World War II.

The American Motorcycling Association (AMA), the races official sanctioning body, suspended the Daytona race in 1942, “in the interests of national defense”. At least that was the stated reason. Most people felt that it was because, with the rationing of fuel, rubber, and the unavailability of parts, the race wouldn’t have been profitable.

A strange thing happened that year, though. Even with the races cancelled and no official events planned, motorcycle enthusiasts still flocked to Daytona Beach and celebrated what they, themselves termed “Bike Week”.

This “unofficial” event continued, despite the war and its shortages, until racing was resumed in February of 1947, but the name “Bike Week” stuck and is still with us, today.

Of special note, to me, was the fact that with an unprecedented crowd showing up for the recommencement of the Daytona 200, there was no room at the inn, so to speak and that the mayor of Daytona and the city fathers actually asked the people of the city to open their homes and allow the visiting bikers to stay with them.

Of course, we all know that this spirit of cooperation didn’t last forever and that at times, particularly in the mid 1980’s, there is tension between the city and the biker community. Thankfully, going to Daytona City-fathers and leaders in the motorcycle community-Daytona Bike Week has endured and grown into the wondrous event it now is.

I’ll see you there.