Thousands of motorcycles lined both sides of The Strand on Friday as Galveston’s largest annual tourism event kicked into high gear.
The Strand is usually known as Galveston’s main tourist shopping street but, on Friday, it was instead crammed with motorcycles and leather as far as the eye could see.
Lone Star Rally, which organizers say is the largest four-day motorcycle rally in the country, began Thursday and will end Sunday.
“It’s kind of like a Mardi Gras on two wheels,” League City resident and event attendee Leon Petty said. “Instead of all the floats, you’ve got motorcycles.”
Special events will occur all weekend, including car shows, bike shows and concerts. Vendors and concessions also lined some of the north to south streets.
While those are a draw, Cypress resident Edwin Brawley said he enjoys spending time with his friends the most. Brawley has attended the rally at least five times, he said.
“All of our friends are down here that ride bikes,” Brawley said. “It’s a relaxing weekend for us to be around this atmosphere. We love this.”
Allen Tovrea, who came from Friendswood for the rally, said he loves the beer and the bikes. The only minor annoyance has been the construction downtown, he said.
“It didn’t stop us from coming though,” Tovrea said.
The rally is considered one of the island’s biggest economic drivers. More than 500,000 visitors came to the island for Lone Star Rally last year, and event officials said they expect a similar number this year.
An economic impact study said that the event contributed $115.6 million to Galveston’s economy in 2016. About $113 million of that came indirectly through retail, food and lodging spending.
The study said the event contributed $691,300 in local taxes.
Tammie Cooper, a Montgomery resident, contributes to the retail spending, she said.
“For me, it’s good shopping,” Cooper said.
The noise of motorcycles revving up is not her favorite, however, Cooper said.
Mostly minor accidents had occurred since Thursday when the rally began, Galveston Police Department Capt. Joshua Schirard said. None of them had involved more than minor injuries, he said.
One motorcyclist did fall off the 51st Street viaduct on Friday and was taken to the emergency room, and his condition was unknown Friday night, Schirard said.
The motorcyclist had been heading west on Harborside Drive and struck the rear end of a Texas City Independent School District bus before losing control, Schirard said.
The viaduct is a tall overpass that carries traffic on Harborside Drive and 51st Street over a collection of railroad tracks.
Four students were on the bus at the time it was hit, but medical authorities determined they were unharmed, Texas City ISD spokeswoman Melissa Tortorici said.
The students live in Galveston but attend school in Texas City through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, Tortorici said.
The motorcyclist was transported to the emergency room after being rescued from the water under the bridge.
Petty said he has attended the rally almost every year since it began 16 years ago. Sometimes he goes to the rally with friends but, if he doesn’t, it’s not hard to make new friends, he said.
“You meet a lot of new people every day,” Petty said. “I’ve met people from Austin, from Waco, from Dallas.”
The friendly atmosphere is always welcoming, Cooper said.
“I like the camaraderie,” Cooper said. “You get this many people in one place and they all seem to get along.”