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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Chelsea Arenado of Bentonville reaches into an ice-filled container of drinks Wednesday while serving people in the main beer garden near the performance stage in the Walton Arts Center parking lot during the annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ motorcycle rally in Fayetteville. Arenado was volunteering to sell drinks to benefit Open Avenues in Rogers, a charitable organization helping adults with intellectual differences.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Every Bikes, Blues & BBQ attendant handing out beer garden bracelets, controlling the flow of bodies in and out of the lots or cleaning up the remnants from the night before volunteers for the job.

Without them, the rally wouldn't happen, organizers say.


Police will close Dickson Street from St. Charles to Gregg avenues and West Avenue from Spring to Watson streets. Closings will start at 4 p.m. today and are subject to change. Only motorcycles will be allowed through the barricade.

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Venue hours

• Dickson Street Beer Garden: 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

• Baum Stadium Motorcycle Village: 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

• Washington County Fairgrounds Saloon: Noon to midnight

• Monster Experience Venue at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale: Beer sales 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Event schedule

• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Factory demo rides, Baum Stadium

• 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Commorative Air Force AirPower History Tour, Arkansas Air and Military Museum, 4290 S. School Ave., Fayetteville

• 9:30 a.m.: Bikes on the Bricks guided ride

• 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.: HOG registration and pin stop, Baum Stadium

• 10 a.m.: Whataburger VIP guided ride

• 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Military appreciation event, Arvest Ballpark

• 8 p.m.: Mr. Bikes, Blues & BBQ — Washington County Fairgrounds


Main Stage on Dickson Street

• 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Gary Hutchinson

• 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.: Funk Factory

• 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Oreo Blue

• 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.: Earl and Them

Blues Alley Saloon at Bikes, Blues & BBQ Campground

• 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.: Brickfields

Source: Staff Report

The volunteers typically come from a broad spectrum of the Northwest Arkansas nonprofit community, said Leah Spears-Blackmon, volunteer coordinator for this year's festival.

Those organizations include Arkansas Support Network, Child Care Aware of Northwest Arkansas, Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club, Jackson L. Graves Foundation, Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Center for Sexual Assault, to name a few.

The rally doles out contributions to charity annually. Last year marked a milestone with about $230,00 given to more than 40 nonprofit groups and school programs. That included a 10-year commitment to Arkansas Children's Northwest hospital totaling $200,000.

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Volunteering isn't a requirement to get a grant, but the support that's reciprocated is much appreciated, Spears-Blackmon said.

Spears-Blackmon took on the job for the first time this year and immediately noticed the sincere lack of chaos for an event of its size and breadth. Organizers estimate 325,000 to 350,000 attendees this year with events and happenings throughout Northwest Arkansas.

"Every single volunteer, every single person in charge of something -- they're the most laid-back, good-humored, easy-going people," she said. "We're dealing with a lot of people in a huge area. You kind of just have to roll with the punches."

Open Avenues had about 25 volunteers slinging beers near the Dickson Street main stage Wednesday night. The Rogers-based organization provides job training and placement for people with disabilities, Executive Director Brenda Neal said.

"They may have the skill set to do the job, but they may need help with putting together a resume or actually applying for the job," she said.

Times have been tough financially for the group. It lost a significant part of its budget from United Way and has gone without a travel grant from an Arkansas Department of Transportation program it depended on. Changes to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act that went into effect in Arkansas last year have changed its service model and the money that went with it, Neal said.

Open Avenues received $2,439 from Bikes and Blues last year, on top of the more than $1,000 it received from working beer sales and tips. Organizations who send volunteers to the beer garden get 5 percent of the beer sales and keep the tips.

"I cannot count the ways," Neal said. "We've had so many cuts in funding over the last three years that it's just desperately needed."

Maddie Hernandez, development coordinator with Open Avenues, helped a handful of colleagues and volunteers get beers to the thirsty crowd. She said she didn't mind the work because she used to be a bartender in Joplin, Mo., back in college.

"It kind of takes me back to the good ol' days of interaction with people," she said. "We do that anyway. Networking is kind of our jam."

Most importantly it's getting the word out about Open Avenues and what the organization does, Hernandez said.

"Even if people are just getting beer for a second, they may be seeing our name, may be wondering what we do, may be asking," she said.

Tonight, volunteers with Children's Safety Center of Washington County will have their turn at the beer garden. The organization was the first child advocacy center in the state and keeps abused children from enduring further trauma during the course of police investigations, prosecution and treatments.

Last year, the center made $1,200 from tips and its portion of the beer sales. That's in addition to the $2,578 it was awarded in grant money.

People often ask how they can help out at Children's Safety Center, but because of the sensitive nature of the work and privacy concerns, opportunities are few and far between. Helping out during Bikes, Blues & BBQ serves as a means for non-staff to help, said Emily Rappe-Fisher, development director.

"It's just a fun way to volunteer but also make a little money for the organization at the same time," she said.

Tommy Sisemore, Bikes, Blues & BBQ executive director, estimated 500 to 600 volunteers keep the festival running every year.

"We absolutely could not execute the rally at the level we are accustomed to without the help of our volunteer groups," he said. "Having the help of all these groups helps us raise our charitable giving astronomically."

NW News on 09/21/2017

Print Headline: Volunteers make rally possible, rally organizers say

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