“Honestly, it feels as if we won the lottery!” says the Center’s chief executive officer. “It is amazing. It is no secret that the St. Martin Center, Inc. is on the front line of dealing with poverty issues in our community. And, like most nonprofits, it requires ongoing fundraising to keep fulfilling its mission. Partnering with Roar on the Shore® and the resources it brings boosts both our impact to the community and our visibility as a nonprofit organization. The fact that this is the Roar’s® 10-year anniversary makes it extra special.”
The St. Martin Center is the most recent in a long line of charitable beneficiaries over the past 10 years. Past recipients include the John Kanzius Cancer Research Fund, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Erie, local Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans and their families, SafeNet’s Big Backyard Children’s Garden, the Flight 93 National Memorial Campaign, the Perry 200 Commemoration, the Boys & Girls Club of Erie, St. Patrick’s Haven, and Erie Homes for Children and Adults’ Project First Step.
This year, proceeds from the five-day rally — set for July 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 — will help pay for a state-of-the-art playground at the St. Martin Center’s new facility on 18th and State Street. The playground is a vital tool and provides the children with a safe and functional recreation space. It will have an ADA-compliant ramp and activities geared toward children of all ages.
“The St. Martin Center New Playground Project is one critical piece in the work of early childhood education and is part of the relocation of our Early Learning Center,” says Gonzalez. “While its value might seem small to some, this playground will be of significant importance for recreation and emotional development of the children who will use it daily.”
Overall, the new Early Learning Center will expand to serve approximately 225 children from pre-kindergarten through age 13 every single year. As a result, the new, long-lasting playground will be used by thousands of inner-city Erie children over the years.
“We’re thrilled to have Roar® assist us with this piece of child development and downtown revitalization,” says Gonzalez. As Gonzalez can attest, there are many benefits, beyond monetary donation, to being a Roar® charity. One is instant credibility to a project and its organization. Also, it provides exposure with the private sector in ways that were not available previously, which is extremely valuable to organizations with limited marketing dollars.
“We feel it’s extremely important to the Erie community to have an annual charitable event like Roar®,” notes Gonzalez. “Roar® contributes so much to this area through its entertainment value, tourism dollars and charitable benefit. It’s so important to have something like this shine such a positive light on our wonderful region. It helps to bring attention to the many valuable, charitable efforts in our area, as well. Most importantly, besides the ‘fun’ aspect, it promotes a spirit of giving. Spotlighting a valuable Erie nonprofit each year and encouraging folks to get to know the local nonprofit scene and to give back; this cannot be beat. Roar® has done all of this and continues to into its 10th year.”
A Rear-View Look
So much has changed since the idea of Roar® began. Today, it is one of the fastest-growing charitable motorcycle rallies in the United States with more than 165,000 visitors expected to gather in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania for five days of motorcycles, music and more.
Seth Tuttle, the rally’s first Roar® official chairman, recalls the original group of organizers and how their vision of the event developed and the excitement that they had. “To watch the MBA, their staff, Mayor Sinnott and all the departments of the city work together seamlessly was inspiring and a critical factor to the success of Roar®,” says Tuttle. “To see the event go without a major hitch still is memorable. I remember thinking the week before the event that the weather was going to mean everything and, then, when we rolled out from behind the casino meet-and-greet and saw the thousands of bikes in the parking lot, thinking this event is going to fly! The crowds along the parade route really made the work worth it.”
Tuttle says he has many fond memories of the rally, but what he most looks forward to is seeing the changes that have come about and all the rally goers from across the country. “We have made so many new friends over the years, and to see how large the crowds have grown and the size of the donation every year is always my favorite part of the event,” he adds.
Tuttle recognizes the tremendous amount of work that goes into it. The rally requires a year of planning and the support of sponsors, staff, Roar® and MBA Boards and many volunteers. “The commitment to the success of the event is still impressive,” explains Tuttle. “While there are systems in place, the staff of the MBA and every volunteer really give their all every year, and the exhausted faces on Saturday night show the dedication and commitment they make. To this day, my wife Bev and I try to be the last to leave on Saturday night, and I just take a moment and look around and think about what happened here over the last few days. It is a very gratifying feeling to see what the community has done for the charity of the year! It is always exciting waiting to see how much was raised.”
Fueling the Local Economy
Erie Mayor Joe Sinnott, who is an active member of the Roar® Board, believes that Roar® is an important event for the City to support because of its short-term and long-term benefits.
“Roar on the Shore® has a great impact on the Erie region, especially our downtown. Each year, more than 100,000 people come to our community to enjoy this event. This results in an extensive economic impact throughout Erie County and is an excellent opportunity to welcome participants from all over the country to experience our wonderful city,” he says. “We find that once people visit the Erie region and see all that we have to offer, they come back again with their family and friends to enjoy our many other attractions.”
In fact, each year, Sinnott, also known as “Erie’s Biker Mayor,” leads hundreds of bikers on the Thunder on the Isle: The Mayor’s Ride around Presque Isle State
Park, Erie’s crowning jewel.
“Roar on the Shore® is a great way to showcase our city and grow our tourism economy,” he adds. “We are very fortunate that the community embraces this event and helps us put our best foot forward for our many guests.”
Sinnott also has many fond memories of Roar on the Shore® throughout the 10 years of its existence, and each year seems to offer a unique and special remembrance.
“I think if I had to choose one, it would be standing in front of the crowd in 2012 and announcing that our efforts in 2011 to raise money for the Flight 93 Memorial Fund had made Erie the single largest donor to that cause throughout the entire nation,” the mayor recalls. “It was certainly a source of pride, for me, that this community came forward and gave so generously to something that was so important to this country. It also showed that the Roar on the Shore®, which had started as a humble motorcycle rally designed for the benefit for the community, had grown to something that had a national impact. I was honored to stand before the community that day and present MBA President Ralph Pontillo with the key to the City for his leadership in accomplishing his vision for this event and making such an important contribution.”
A Community Event
Don Hester, the 2016 MBA and Roar® chairman and president and CEO of MAJR Products Corporation, acknowledges that Roar® has evolved into a major part of the Association’s community outreach. Since it began, the rally has injected more than $25 million each year into the local economy and contributed approximately $800,000 to local charities in the past nine years.
“To me, the Roar® means giving and helping others — giving the community the opportunity to come together and participate in a variety of events from music to various demonstrations and displays,” he says.
For the sponsors, for example, it means supporting our community and local charities — and helping to bring people together to enjoy the beauty of the area. For individuals and organizations, it means the chance to increase revenues through various fundraising opportunities and bringing in thousands of people who probably wouldn’t be in the Erie area if it wasn’t for Roar®.
“My hopes are that the Roar® is a win-win for everyone involved — business, sponsors and individuals,” says Hester.
Roar®, indeed, brings businesses and the community together to show the great things northwest Pennsylvania has to offer.
“It’s amazing that thousands of motorcycle riders and tens of thousands of visitors are in downtown Erie every day during the event; people from as far away as California and from our neighbors to the north in Canada,” adds Hester. “There are thousands of bikes to see lined along the streets of every make and model with people of all walks of life having a wonderful time.”
Joe Askins, owner of major sponsor Off-Road Express and Indian Motorcycle of Erie, has been a longtime supporter and sponsor of the rally. He, for one, is proud to be a part of something that has become such a major charitable event, economic driver and entertainment venue.
“I can tell you as a business owner, we see the positive effects of Roar on the Shore® weeks before the rally, as well as weeks after the event,” Askins says. “I know I’m not the only one. I have had other local business owners tell me that they see an increase in business not just during the event, but also in the weeks leading up to and after the rally. The exciting part for local businesses is the fact that Roar on the Shore® continues to grow and has not reached its economic impact potential.”
Over the years, Askins’ dealerships have hosted numerous rides, events, bike giveaways, celebrity meet-and-greets and stunt shows. Yet, the businessman says his favorite part of the rally is the Roar® bike parade.
“There is something magical to see the entire community line the streets with American flags, children waving, smiles and laughter. The parade is for everyone, whether you are on a bike or gathering for a picnic on the route. There is a strong presence of America on the entire route, and that is something that always sticks,” says Askins. “I remember a few years back I had brought bike builders Arlen and Cory Ness in for Roar®. Arlen has attended bike rallies for the past 40 years and, when we stopped on the parade route, he was truly overwhelmed not just by the amount of bikes, but also by the participation of non-riders celebrating on the route. He told me, ‘You guys have something really special going on with this rally,’ and he hadn’t seen anything like it.”
With the rally marking its 10th anniversary this year, Askins says he would like to see more local businesses participate in Roar on the Shore® because it is far more than a bike rally — it really is a community event with endless possibilities.
“The community has done a great job supporting this event, and it really isn’t possible without their support,” says Askins. “I would like to thank the entire community on behalf of all the local businesses. Happy anniversary, Roar on the Shore®! I know the best is yet to come.”