IGNACIO – As a five-time arm-wrestling champion of Ignacio Bike Week, James Garcia was disappointed that the competition was canceled this year, but his wife, Stephanie Garcia, still earned the couple some bragging rights by winning the biker beauty pageant fully clothed.
Echoing sentiments by participating vendors and organizers of the biker rallies and activities in Ignacio, Durango and Mancos, the Garcias said they had a pretty good weekend.
“It was a little unorganized this year, but I think it will get better,” said James Garcia, 28, from Grand Junction. “We heard a lot of good bands. I’m not going to say it was a bad experience, we had a good time.”
Stephanie Garcia said she was awarded the Miss Ignacio title, a $400 cash prize and 30 minutes of free tattoo work as the pageant contestant “showing the least amount of skin. Got to keep it classy.”
“We might be bikers, but we’re not biker trash. Huge difference,” James Garcia said.
But the pageant got raucous as someone donated a pole for pole dancing.
“They were like, ‘Hey, we’ll bring it over,’” said Ignacio Bike Week event coordinator Johnny Valdez. “It was pretty funny. Some (contestants) did pole dancing. Some did traditional dancing. There was one who did a ballerina dance. I think she got second place.”
While attendance was up 10 percent to just more than 25,000 visitors this year – a “population explosion” considering Ignacio has 700 residents – Valdez acknowledged there was some confusion as the result of having camping, vendors and bands within the Sky Ute Fairgrounds while still continuing with a street fair in downtown Ignacio.
Because it cost $10 to $15 to get into the fairgrounds, the shopping and activities within the fairgrounds competed with the free activities and vendors outside its gates.
The early rounds of the arm-wresting competition, for instance, were supposed to take place outside the fairgrounds while the championship was originally scheduled for inside the fairgrounds.
“Everyone would have paid to go watch (the championship),” James Garcia said. “People got upset so they just canceled it. We didn’t even get to try (to arm wrestle).”
Valdez said part of their “debrief” will be deciding which activities should be free in the future. “You try to figure what works and what doesn’t work,” said Valdez, a board member of the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce.
Bobby Hughes, whose pork chop vending business is called Hog on a Log, is not crazy about the move to the fairgrounds because it can accommodate so many more food vendors. “You can only cut the pie so thin,” Hughes said.
Bob Abel, a vendor from Arvada, who set up his business, Pioneer Leather in the Albertsons parking lot in Durango, also was disappointed that crowds were down from previous years, but he was happy motorcyclists were spending. “It’s like you or me. If we’re going on vacation, we’re not going to be cheap about it,” he said.
The Sky Ute Casino and Resort in Ignacio benefitted from big crowds dining at its restaurants and filling its rooms and RV park to capacity, said general manager Charley Flagg.
Some of the casino’s more popular events were a jalapeño eating contest and a showing of the biker movie classic, “Easy Rider.”
Watching it was a “déjà vu moment” for many, said Steve Turner, the casino’s director of marketing.
The Sugar Pine Ranch Rally near Mancos averaged between 2,000 to 3,000 people a day with concerts every night to draw the crowds, said organizer Joyce Humiston.
“The Sugar Pine is here to stay,” she said. “We built our own showers for future events so we no longer have to rent them. We have reports from our local businesses that (the rally) will end their summer with a positive financial impact.”
Bikers cruising to activities in Ignacio, Durango and Mancos contributed to the traffic and kept police busy all weekend, but “the rally did not cause any problems,” said Durango Police Sgt. Rita Warfield.
A female camper reportedly died on Sunday at the Ignacio fairgrounds, but the cause was believed to be natural causes, said Valdez, who talked to the authorities.