LACONIA — Delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and smaller by design, the 97th edition of Laconia Motorcycle Week got off the starting line Saturday with a masked, socially distanced run around Lake Winnipesaukee.
The Peter Makris Memorial Run, which raises money for local and statewide charities, began and ended at the Naswa Resort with 95 riders, about one third the usual number, said Cynthia Makris, president of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association and Makris’ daughter.
All the riders, including the New Hampshire State Police motorcycle contingent that led the run, posed for a masked-up photo opportunity before getting on their bikes and trikes, taking a right onto Route 3 and heading north, waving to Hope Makris, Peter’s 95-year-old widow, as they rode off.
After looking over the area before coming to the Naswa, Laconia Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said “people are doing a good job” wearing masks, social distancing and observing other state restrictions.
Beattie said Motorcycle Week 2020, his 22nd, is “different ... but everything looks different this year.”
“I think we have the resources in place” to deal with any health and safety issues that come up, he said, “but there’s a lot of unknowns. We really don’t know what to expect.”
Ward 5 City Councilor Bob Hamel said the city is hoping for “a decent turnout,” but a “subdued” one.
For that reason, the City Council withheld Motorcycle Week property-use permits and vendors’ licenses and prohibited center-line parking on Lakeside Avenue, specifically to minimize people congregating.
“We just wanted another day in The Weirs,” with people enjoying themselves while being respectful of others, said Hamel, whose Honda was one of the outliers among the Harley-Davidsons in Saturday’s Makris Run.
Kathy Flynn, with Veterans Count, the philanthropic arm of Easterseals Military and Veterans Services, said the Makris Run was a great way to raise awareness about the group and maybe open some wallets, both of which have been difficult during the pandemic.
“We’re focused on the safety of our volunteers and attendees,” she said, noting that “everyone is social distancing and we have plenty of hand sanitizer.”
Beattie said the fire department has benefited from the Peter Makris Memorial Run, using proceeds to purchase water-rescue training and equipment. Money from this year’s run will go toward sending a firefighter to paramedic training, a $15,000 expense, Beattie said.
Among those riding in the first-day run was Ken Anderson of Gilford, president of the New Hampshire Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, successor to a Marines club that he and Peter Makris belonged to.
Since Makris’ death in 2007, the Leathernecks have had a relationship with Cynthia, Anderson said, and “if it’s important to her, it’s important to us.”
Besides being jarheads — Makris in World War II and Anderson in Vietnam — both are former New Hampshire county attorneys .
Anderson, also a drummer in a band that plays rock ’n’ roll from the 1950s through the 1970s, said he and Makris last spoke after his band performed at the Naswa on the final Saturday of a Motorcycle Week.
“It was a very nice conversation,” Anderson said.
Asked about pandemic precautions, Anderson said he and his fellow Leathernecks “mask up when we have to.”
“One thing about Marines, is we can take an order,” he said.
The Rev. Marc Drouin, pastor of St. Andre Bessette Parish, invoked a higher power during his blessing of the motorcycles, riders and passengers participating in the first day’s run.
He asked God to keep all who rode safe from harm and injury, to grant them dexterity on “the blind curves and sandy corners” and to protect them from breakdowns and slippery roads.
The riders then started their engines, to the strains of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”