Not many years ago, Durango’s summer calendar was just a warm-up for Labor Day Weekend and the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally. In the 1990s, and early into the new millennium, Main Avenue was lined with Harley Davidsons and other motorcycles from 12th Street to the Gaslight Theatre—most estimates in those glory days of the Iron Horse put the number of visiting hogs over 10,000. But hard times came. Several years of managerial infighting, bad headlines, mismanagement, and outright greed splintered the Iron Horse into a decade-long spiral of dwindling attendance, resulting in its demise by 2017. Or so it seemed.
Enter Trevor and Catie Bird. This Texas couple purchased the Durango Harley Davidson dealership in June of that year; and when Trevor heard there wasn’t going to be a Labor Day Rally in Durango, he rallied the troops. “2017 would’ve been the 25th anniversary of the rally, and it had to happen,” Trevor said from his office at the South Durango motorcycle dealership. “So, we scrambled and got the Harley-Davidson Demo Fleet and got Hot Bike Magazine involved and put a rally together.”
Those efforts kept the Iron Horse from disappearing, but now Trevor and his longtime partner and collaborator John Oakes are in charge, and they intend to see the rally return to its former glory without any further drama. Trevor and John purchased the rally, officially named the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally—lock, stock, and barrel. That includes the Four Corners name, website, social media sites, and trademarks, and just as importantly, they’ve got the blessing of golden age Iron Horse organizers like Johnny Valdez and others. John Oakes is the founder and CEO of Freeze Management in California, which specializes in large music, car, and motorcycle events nationwide and internationally, including several at the Birds’ Harley dealerships in Texas.
“The day after Labor Day in 2017 we started working on 2018,” Trevor said. “We brought back the parade on Sunday, we had the Flat Track Race at the Fairgrounds to benefit the BMX team, and Saturday was a big Veterans’ Run for the Elks Club. That’s something that’s important to us—the events and attractions we’re bringing, we want to be open to everybody.”
The local Harley dealership will again be rally central this year, with vendors, live music, and food spread over the sizable parking lot. But Bird and Oakes want to involve the entire region, and events are planned from the Sky Ute Casino in Ignacio (highlighted by a stunt show) to the slopes of Purgatory (for the first-ever hill climb race, permission pending) to the Harley shop in Silverton. And Downtown Durango should be roaring once again, with a music stage on 10th Street near El Rancho Tavern on Friday night and the aforementioned Parade of Iron Horses on Sunday. A healthy Labor Day Weekend Motorcycle Rally used to mean a season-ending boom for regional businesses, and Trevor wants to ensure that there will never again be a bust. He and John have the resources to ensure the rally’s financial stability, and he’s gotten advice from some who lived some of the rally’s best days, including former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, an Ignacio resident and lifelong motorcycle enthusiast.
“Ben has been an incredible mentor. He’s taken me under his wing, shared things to avoid and what got them off the rails in the past. People got greedy, they saw the rally was bringing in money and selfishness and greed split it up,” Trevor explained. “We both have full-time jobs—we’re not dependent on this rally for money, but we have a desire to see that it happens and happens the right way.” As for the new team in charge, the right way to have a motorcycle rally is to focus on the motorcycles—and riding them. Flatlanders from every corner of the United States and beyond are drawn to the postcard-perfect mountain highways and there are hundreds of miles of them in Southwest Colorado. There are multiple rides planned with stops in the hubs of Ignacio, Durango, and Silverton, where riders can pick up coveted poker chips and other memorabilia from the weekend’s festivities.
His rally was just named by Motorcycle Cruiser magazine as one of the Top 7 in the U.S. despite the negative publicity in recent years.
Trevor continued, “They stressed the riding. It’s the best and most diverse—you can be in the desert, 14,000-foot mountains, and the forests all in one day, so instead of sitting in a campground getting drunk all weekend we want to encourage people to get out and ride and experience the Four Corners and support the local businesses that make up the community.” Trevor’s goals for the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally should be good news to critics of the rally, and there have always been concerns, often substantiated, about increased crime and noise disturbances during the rally for local residents. But Trevor stresses that those concerns are his and Catie’s, too, and he wants the community to know it matters.
“The events you promote will dictate who comes,” Trevor said. “So if you’re promoting wet t-shirt contests and bikini bike washes—and I have nothing against that—there’s a time and a place for everything; but that’s not what we’re about. We’re about riding, having fun, racing, and good quality motorcycle events that’ll bring people here to stay at the hotels, eat at our restaurants, and buy things from our merchants. This is a 20-year plan for John and me. Durango’s home and we’re here for the long haul.”
“It’s been great to have the support of the local communities, to see them get on board. I think they believe in what we’re trying to do so it has a positive economic boost for the community.” - Trevor Bird, Owner of Durango Harley Davidson
Story written by: Ted Holteen Photos Provided by: Trevor Bird