News

Port Dover gears up for thousands of guests

Jacob Robinson

By Jacob Robinson, Simcoe Reformer

The big party may be happening Friday but preparations for PD13 have already begun. Volunteers including Angela Restoule (left) and Port Dover Lioness members like Marilyn Bremner were hard at work Tuesday at Destination 13 on Main St. printing and folding T-shirts for the upcoming Friday the 13th biker rally, which is expected to bring upwards of 200,000 people to Port Dover. The Port Dover Lioness will be selling shirts beside the store at 223 Main St. and in front of Roulston's Pharmacy with a portion of proceeds being donated back to the club. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

The big party may be happening Friday but preparations for PD13 have already begun. Volunteers including Angela Restoule (left) and Port Dover Lioness members like Marilyn Bremner were hard at work Tuesday at Destination 13 on Main St. printing and folding T-shirts for the upcoming Friday the 13th biker rally, which is expected to bring upwards of 200,000 people to Port Dover. The Port Dover Lioness will be selling shirts beside the store at 223 Main St. and in front of Roulston's Pharmacy with a portion of proceeds being donated back to the club. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer

PORT DOVER  - 

Port Dover is accustomed to hosting big parties, but this week might see the largest one ever.

Organizers, police and county staff are busy preparing for the upcoming Friday the 13th, which could see as many as 200,000 plus motorcycle enthusiasts flood the lakeside town.

This will be the last chance for bikers to gear up and gather on the shores of Lake Erie for a while too – the next Friday the 13th doesn't fall until September of 2019.

“I think we're going to see the biggest event ever simply because of the weather and the time of year,” said Amie Ferris of the Port Dover Kinsmen Club, the organization that oversees a portion of the gathering. “April was a decent event, it wasn't by any means the biggest – October (2017) was probably better than April – and being that there is not another event until next September, you'll see a good turnout.”

Ferris said that upwards of 1,000 volunteers have come forward to help with everything from setup to cleanup. Kinsmen members positioned their beer tent behind Knechtel's on Tuesday. The group will be able to open camping at the Kinsmen Park/former Doverwood School area beginning Wednesday at 4 p.m. In past years camping opened on Thursday evening.

“Why not bring people into town if we can and let them spend some money in Port Dover?” Ferris said. “We're excited to have a little bit of an early start.”

Norfolk County staff have been working on everything from signage to barricades as the event approaches. Both Norfolk County Fire and EMS are also prepared for the large influx of participants.

“They have work plans they work on each year and there's a few additional changes as far as 'what ifs' because if you're dealing with a smaller crowd you don't have as many 'what ifs',” said Bill Cridland, Norfolk's general manager of community services. “The average person won't see anything different (from county staff) other than there has been a lot of planning going on already and I can safely say (there will be) more staff and resources available for this event than obviously the April one or even last October.”

Ferris advised those attending to follow road signage and expect delays into parking lots and entrances.

For first-timers, she suggested taking a stroll along all of Main St.

“The majority of bikes park there,” she began. “They will be all over town, but if you take a walk from one end to the other you're going to see a ton of different motorcycles, different styles, colours, paint jobs. It's really, really interesting to see and that's probably one of my favourite parts of Friday the 13th.”

Norfolk OPP Const. Ed Sanchuk pointed out that the last two Friday the 13th rallies have come and gone without incident. He hopes that trend will continue this time around.

“If you plan on drinking or having intoxicating substances you need to make sure you have a plan in place – do not get behind the wheel of your vehicle or handlebars of your motorcycle because you're going to run into our roaming RIDE spot checks,” he advised.

“Every year we continue to have a Friday the 13th where everyone acts in a safe and mature manner and we're hoping to continue that tradition.”

Not only does Friday the 13th serve as a major fundraiser for organizations like the Kinsmen Club but it also pumps a boatload of money into the local economy both during the event and afterwards.

“The restaurants are going to be full, there's going to be lineups to get into them and that's what we like to see,” said Ferris.

“When people come to Port Dover for Friday the 13th they fall in love with it and then they come back with their family and their grandkids and take them to the beach ... it brings people here all year round, which is fantastic for tourism in Norfolk.”

jrobinson@postmedia.com