Questions and Answers: Dale Hicks, Atlanticade mastermind

Many of you probably missed it over the holidays, but in late December, Atlanticade announced they’d be moving back to Moncton for 2015.

Despite a couple changes in location over the years, Atlanticade remains one of Canada’s biggest motorcycle rallies; along with the Wharf Rat rally, it’s one of the two biggest cruiserpaloozas on the east coast. Running over five days in the summer (usually the week of Canada Day), Atlanticade attracts riders from all over North America, particularly the eastern US and Canada, who show up for group rides, good eats, friendly competition and other usual rally fare.

Most recently, Atlanticade ran for three years in Summerside, after its start in Moncton and subsequent move to St. Andrews, NB. Now it’s putting PEI in its taillights.

We emailed Atlanticade head honcho Dale Hicks, the face of Atlanticade (as executive committee chairman), to see what was up with the venue change. Here’s what he sent back:

1) Atlanticade has moved around … has this been detrimental or a positive aspect of growing the event?

Moving the event around has both pros and cons. There are several cons, including logistics of the actual venue site. When you move to a new venue, certain things work well and other aspects need to be tweaked for a couple years to get it right. So just when you think you have things figured out, you are on the move again … and the exercise repeats itself.

Another con is attracting local sponsors and volunteers. The first year into a new location you tend to get the stereotype approach associated with “bikers” and some aspects of the community are reluctant to get involved. Once they see the event, they are more inclined to come forward the next year to help sponsor or volunteer.This also applies to the local policing organization, which isn’t quite sure what to expect the first time through. However, after eight years, our event has a reputation of being easy to police.

The pros are related to the number of new participants you attract to your event. For example when we were in New Brunswick for the first five years we saw a limited amount of riders from PEI. Now that the Island has been exposed to Atlanticade for three years I think there will be an increase in PEI participants this coming year in Moncton.

2) Atlanticade started in Moncton. Why did you leave and how does it feel to return home?

Every year we get approached to move our event. The initial three years in Moncton were growing pains for everyone, but we were competing against mega-concerts and football games trying to carve out our place in the calendar of events. Of course we were a new event and unproven at that time, so the committee decided that it might serve the event well to relocate to another community where the festival would get a higher profile. We have achieved this with our time spent in St. Andrews and Summerside, and now I think there is a better understanding of our event and the tourism benefits it provides.

Returning to Moncton makes it so much easier on the organizing committee. You have five major dealerships in greater Moncton, potential for more sponsors, and access to more volunteers. So yes we are happy to be back home so to speak.

3) Bathurst – why didn’t that happen?

The Bathurst scenario was very different from the others in that we were not prepared to relocate the event to a new location for the reasons outlined above. The discussion with Bathurst was solely from the point of them taking over ownership of the event and our committee no longer being involved. We indicated this could be something we would consider if we did not come to an agreement to continue to operate the festival either in Summerside or Moncton. It is my understanding they will be moving ahead with a motorcycle rally of their own this summer.

4) What sparked the move from Summerside?

We had a three year agreement to operate the event in Summerside which ended in 2014. The majority of our participants had suggested we find a permanent home for the event which the committee agreed with. In addition, we got the sense from Tourism PEI that any funding going forward would be tied to an agreement to make Summerside the permanent home for the event. So we approached the negotiations from that viewpoint. However, in the end could not come to terms on what a long term agreement would look like, how long would we continue to operate the event, and who would take over the festival when we were no longer committed to running the event. So returning to Moncton just became a logical decision at that point.

5) What can Moncton expect from Atlanticade this year?

A big part of the decision to return to Moncton was based on our event being held in conjunction with the new Ribfest event which was started in 2014. Ribfest 2015 will run the last three days of Atlanticade and provide participants with a new experience. In addition the Ribfest group will be exposed to a large group of new patrons which makes it a “win-win” for both events. Add in the fact we kick off our festival on July 1st with Canada Day celebrations put on by the City of Moncton and it all combines together to create a great five day festival for motorcycle enthusiasts.

6) Will the venue change from PEI affect some riders desire to come to Moncton?

There is no question PEI is a great place to ride a motorcycle. Great scenery, great rolling hills, and limited traffic to contend with. However Atlanticade now has a dedicated following and we feel the return to Moncton, with it’s central location in the maritimes, will attract our largest turnout in 2015. We just need to organize an event that will appeal to the majority of those who like to attend these type of gatherings.

7) Are you hoping to keep Atlanticade in Moncton or is there another move possible?

Our committee said all along that wherever the festival is in 2015 will be the long term home for the event. That is why we wanted to take our time to explore all the options before making a final decision. So no, we don’t ever envision moving again.

Atlanticade will run July 1-5 in 2015, in downtown Moncton, NB. More details on activities and rides will be available on their site here as the event gets closer.

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