Great Bend Celebrates Big Weekend

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's a great weekend for the town of Great Bend. An air show, a motorcycle rally, and a Monarch butterfly tagging are all going on at essentially the same time.

But it wasn't originally planned that way.

It's worked out well for people such as Salina's Mark Blazek.

Having a motorcycle to ride to the Big Bend Motorcycle Rally is something for him to celebrate. After all, he's had to work at getting one ever since he was a child growing up with his mother who worked as an emergency room nurse.

"I about drove my mother crazy wanting a mini bike and, of course, I never got one," Blazek said.

But at age 17 he did get a bike: a Yamaha 500. Now, he's into Harley Davidsons but still mindful of his mother's concerns.

"Look mom, I have a helmet!" Blazek showed us.

He wore that helmet on his ride up to Great Bend to the Big Bend Motorcycle Rally. The Rally is in its fifth year but this year had some added appeal for Blazek.

"This year, I had a feeling, being advertised on TV like it was, it would be a little big bigger with the air show going on," Blazek said.

The Great Bend AirFest happens every other year at the historic Great Bend Municipal Airport with a new theme. This year's theme is remembering World War II.

More than 8,000 people were stationed at the Great Bend Municipal Airport during the war, organizers said. Aside from the impressive aircraft, the event featured a POW MIA ceremony and a 1940's-style dance Saturday.

But it was by mistake that the community put the AirFest, the Rally, and the Monarch butterfly event all on the same weekend. Rather than reschedule, organizers embraced working together. They've turned it into a three-day festival running September 21-23.

"We threw it all together and it became the BBB weekend in Great Bend and it really worked well for us," City of Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes said.

BBB stands for Bikes, Bombers, and Butterflies. The tie in has helped the town soar to a new level of excitement.

More than 4,500 people had attended the AirFest by Saturday and more than 1,000 were thought to have attended the Rally, organizers said.

"That's what we're trying to do: promote what Great Bend has and what our community has," Big Bend Motorcycle Rally founder Robin Fabricius said. "The more people we can bring here to show off what we've got, the better."

People such as Mark Blazek who gets to show off his bike and, thanks to the busy weekend, enjoy plenty of good company.

"I'm really here to meet up with old friends," Blazek said. "It's been really cool."

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