Puerto Peñasco celebrated 20 years of the Rocky Point Rally this year. The event, which first began as a celebration among friends, is now a tradition that brings together thousands of motorcyclists from the United States and Mexico, and beyond.
Twenty years of the Rocky Point Rally may seem simple, but this represents years of building, designing, organizing and modifying in order to continually improve. Today, despite the complex circumstances we’ve all been facing, the Rocky Point Rally has positioned itself as one of the most important motorcycle gatherings in northwestern Mexico.
Oscar Palacio Soto first gave rise to the idea of gathering friends from Mexico and the United States who all shared the same passion: motorcycles. Cutting through the air on a motorcycle out on the open road is how the first Rally came to our shores in 2001.
What began in November, precisely as it had historically been a lower tourist season, these two decades of the Rocky Point Rally have made strong strides in creating an adventure tourism market for people from the United States and abroad who consider Puerto Peñasco a place for fun and partying. Bikers will ride hundreds of miles along border highways to reach our paradise of beaches, dunes, and desert, with its increasing hotel infrastructure and new recreation places.
When Rally founder Palacio Soto first envisioned the event, he never imagined it would soon become a gathering that attracted bikers from Arizona, California and Nevada, as well as the states of Sonora, Chihuahua and Baja California as the word spread.
“We can divide this event into three phases, when we first started, in early 2000, we were supported by Harley Davidson distributors, Lyman Sherer, Rick Hatch, and Buddy Stubbs along with other volunteers. After eight years, and as the Rocky Point Rally was growing, the economic crisis of 2009 came and the matter got complicated” recalls Oscar Palacio.
After overcoming this low period, from 2014 – 2019 the Rocky Point Rally grew again to over 9,000 motorcyclists. While 85% of rally-goers have been from the U.S., there are also dozens of motorcyclists from other countries such as Canada, Korea, Australia and of course Mexico. This is how the Rally has grown, which now in its 20th anniversary comes after a year of pandemic and last year’s cancellation of the rally due to the health emergency.
Palacio, who remains the principal organizer of the Rocky Point Rally, explains having first created this event for a low tourism season has had a positive impact on the community, not only benefitting the hotel sector, but also restaurants, gas stations and city shops. He adds that even fast food spots and convenience stores along the highways leading to Puerto Peñasco get their fair share of an uptick in business.
An important aspect of this event is that each year several charities benefit from proceeds stemming from the voluntary Rally registration set up at the entrance to the city. This has been significant for organizations such as DIF Municipal, CAM La Montaña school for children with disabilities, the local chapter of the George Papanicolaou Cancer Awareness and Prevention Association, among several others, who between them have received close to $600,000 USD over a span of 17 years.
Palacio details while other motorcycle Rallies are mainly commercial, the Rocky Point Rally stands out as a party event, like a motorcycle carnival, bringing together music and good times. Attendees know they are coming to meet up with friends they have met over the years while bringing in new ones.
“We believe we’re doing things well, especially with the impact on charities, and revenue that spreads across to taxis, restaurants, bars and more businesses,” says Palacio.
After 2020, when all massive events were cancelled due to health contingencies, the Rocky Point Rally resurfaced in 2021 for its 20th Anniversary stronger than ever, managing to exceed all expectations, bringing together over 6 thousand motorcyclists mostly from the United States.
This information is very encouraging to rally organizers as it shows the market is recovering. Palacio assures this motivates rally organizers to perfect the annual event, and they are already working on the next Rally for 2022.
“We didn’t expect to have this number of motorcycles this year. We know that 3,500 came through Lukeville on Thursday, and about 1,700, on Friday; plus, there are those who rode through Caborca and the Gulf of Santa Clara. We thought 5 thousand motorcyclists was a good ceiling but we surpassed that,” says the organizer.
Oscar acknowledges the bi-national event can be improved upon, and that situations that can get out of control always arise. However, the event can be perfected in the coming years as the idea has always been to organize a rally that attracts motorcyclists who come to celebrate and have a good time, without losing sight of it being an event to be enjoyed by all.
“As organizers, we plan the registration, guided tours, the parade that people go out to see, the poker run, and bike show. Still, situations we don’t plan on and don’t agree with can come up, but we hope that won’t happen again,” he said.
Organizing the rally has been possible thanks to many hands that have selflessly supported the event, from designing the program, setting up the registration area, organizing charity groups, mapping out routes, hiring bands, coordinating with the municipal offices, and many other activities. Among these altruistic people, Oscar brings to mind initial support from Jim Luck, Lyman Sherer, Rick Hatch, Susy Diaz and Billy, as well as Warren and Ari Levenbaum of Law Tigers, and currently active volunteers, Shandra Keesecker and her parents Selena and Joe Keesecker, as well as Beverly Arrowood among others, plus the support received through the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and local businesses.
So to say 20 years of the Rocky Point Rally is to speak of a lot of hard work behind the scenes, as well as several ups and downs. However, above all, it is to highlight an event that has grown exponentially because motorcyclists know that coming to Puerto Peñasco is to take in a paradise of beautiful beaches, the spectacular desert, and a great atmosphere with people who share the same passion.