Natchez is high on the HOGs this weekend

Published 12:59 am Saturday, September 18, 2010

NATCHEZ — The bond between Harley riders has a way of dissolving differences.

Harley Owner’s Group Mississippi State Rally Coordinator Mike “Curly” Sumrall said the annual HOG rally brings together a passionate bunch of Harley-Davidson lovers from all walks of life.

Doctors, lawyers, school teachers, elected officials and blue-collar workers get a chance to hang up their day-job hats and share their passion for Harleys at the event in Natchez, which is hosted at the Natchez Convention Center this weekend.

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Sumrall said 320 men and women pre-registered for the rally, and more showed up Friday.

“Rich doctors will be rubbing elbows with minimum-wage workers,” Sumrall said.

Sumrall said when HOG riders gather, everyone is on the same level — regardless of anyone’s background or profession.

The rough, leathered-up image of most people’s idea of Harley riders does not necessarily apply to the folks at the HOG rally.

Sumrall, a retired state auditor of 25 years, said those who attend the event tend to be older.

“It’s a family event,” Sumrall said.

One couple from Jackson, Alton and Shirley Ware, just became grandparents.

Shirley, 65, decided to learn to get her own motorcycle license less than 10 years ago, when her husband complained that she wiggled around too much on the seat as a rider.

Now able to ride a hog solo, Shirley is on her fourth motorcycle, which is a blue Harley-Davidson Deluxe.

Alton, 67, who rides a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, started riding in 1956 as a high school student, just after the days of James Dean.

Shirley, whose neatly cropped silver hair and modest make up looks like any other grandmothers’, said she purchased her 2-month-old granddaughter a pink onesie that reads, “My grandma rides a Harley.”

Shirley said her granddaughter’s parents do not ride motorcycles, but neither her son nor his wife is bothered by her gifts.

“He thinks I’m cool,” Shirley said of her son.

Shirley said the free feeling and wind in her face attracts her to motorcycles.

“It’s not confined, it’s nice,” she said.

“It’s just something you can’t explain,” her husband Alton said about why he loves to ride his Harley.

Sumrall said the Harley Owner’s Group is one of the biggest factory-sponsored organizations in the country, with 1,200 chapters based worldwide.

The state rally has been hosted across the state since 1983, and Sumrall said people from 15 states signed up to attend the rally in Natchez this year.

The HOG Rally was a success when Natchez hosted the event in 2007 and 2008, Summrall said. And he expects the nice weather, antebellum homes and scenic Natchez Trace Drive will offer as much this weekend to HOG lovers as it has in past years.

A safety meeting and parade staging will take place from 4:30 to 5 p.m. today.

From 5 to 6 p.m. the hogs will ride across the bridge to Vidalia from the Natchez Visitor and Reception Center and back to Natchez. Closing ceremonies will take place at 7 p.m. with “Bluz Boys” band to follow.