Bikers rev up tourism in Hot Springs

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (KTHV) - Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and It's been a busy tourist season for the city of Hot Springs. One the city's biggest crowds is the motorcycle community.

"It's a great place to have this your home base and go for rides all around," said Mike Pettey, President of the Hot Springs Downtown Merchants Association.

Over the last 20 years, Hot Springs has become a destination for bikers across the country. And their business has been a big boost for the city's economy.

"People are getting used to bikers," said biker Pamela Van Holbeck. "We're more accepted than maybe 10 years ago."

She lives in St. Louis but makes Hot Springs a frequent stop when she's out on the road.

"It's beautiful, the scenery is beautiful, the weather is beautiful, the people are awesome," Van Holbeck said.

"Everything north, west and around here is some of the best riding in the entire country," Pettey said.

A reason, he said, bikers have made it a must-see destination.

"It's nothing like the old days and the preconceived notions of what bikers are," Pettey said. "These are people, these are families and it's from every walk of life."

And when bikers feel the love, they give back to the community.

"They just seem to be here to not just have a good time," said Franki Johnston, the owner of the fudge factory. "They support all the local businesses. Always in a good mood!"

New York transplants Jim and Lynn Valetutti call this home and enjoy spending the day in Hot Springs.

"It's a nice blend of a variety of restaurants and you know cultural events to a certain degree," Jim Valetutti said.

"We're normal people with normal jobs, we make a living, we're not criminals," Van Holbeck said.

"We're just everyday people that are trying to enjoy life."

The 9th Annual Hot Springs Bike Rally starts on Thursday, Sept. 4th. Organizers expect 20,000 people to attend.


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