Cape Bike Night
Festival brings thousands to a community party, celebrating machines
For those of us who believe a bike is for pedaling, Cape Coral’s hugely popular Bike Night is a mystery. At first the event seems to be more about food trucks, attractive women in leather pants and all these beverages in red aluminum bottles. There’s an excitement to walking in the middle of a street closed for one night to traffic. The spirit of the evening is lifting as the sun slips away, with sounds and smoke rising like balloons into the warm night sky. But at some moment you realize Bike Night really is about appreciating motorcycles. It begins when you dodge the parade of throttle-gunning riders on the closed 47th Terrace, to inspect the passing hardware and accept what motorcycle owners put into their bikes. Some of these machines are mobile artwork. You start watching others watching as a gleaming machine of extreme value scoots by. Think of it as an Old West rodeo as the cowboys pass the grandstands. But this is not strictly a man’s world. You see many women riding alone, feminine frills and all. Bike Night has grown so popular, in fact, that host Cape Coral has turned it into four seasonal events, the next on Feb. 11 in the Cape’s trendy 47th Terrace entertainment district. Other Bike Nights occur second Saturdays in October, December and April. They run from 5 to 10 pm. Cape Coral’s Parks and Recreation Department has hosted Bike Night for about a decade. The event started out on a small lot and grew so quickly that it was soon moved to its current location to accommodate the 20,000 of us visiting tonight. “Part of our job as special event coordinators is to bring visitors to the city,” says Kristin Nespoli, a senior recreation specialist for Cape Coral Parks and Recreation. “And Bike Night meets those expectations. We love Cape Coral and want to keep making it better.”
Bike Night also is about people, many thousands of them in a light crush on a closed street, pressing forward in bunches, moving aside as thundering motorcycles cruise past.
To anyone unfamiliar with a festival centered around motorcycles, hot rods or boats, the sensations of stepping into the middle of such an event can be unnerving. So what’s the attraction? Plenty. Bike Night also is about people, many thousands of them in a light crush on a closed street, pressing forward in bunches, moving aside as thundering motorcycles cruise past. And it’s about pockets of loud music, the key to a successful outdoor event. The music element of the festival has morphed from a lone stage for the first Bike Night to three performance stages now, Nespoli says. Local establishments such as Dixie Roadhouse and Nevermind Awesome Bar & Eatery host sideshow events featuring not-quite-forgotten ’80s rock bands. “We love it,” says Amy Cook, a Gainesville woman visiting with her friend Denise Kirkland to witness the rock band Quiet Riot perform at the private Nevermind stage. “[This] is one of the best places to
have fun in the state. The word is getting around, too.” Bike Night is lined with vendor and sponsor booths, many of which you recognize from farmers’ markets and art shows. But others speak directly to motorcyclists. The nonprofit Bikers Against Child Abuse is such a vendor, its hosts in leather vests and chains to promote the group’s work in Southwest Florida. In the booth you meet Chef and Wingman—and you address them as such. In a neighboring booth you pay to sledgehammer a pumpkin to pieces. The proceeds from making a mess benefit another good cause. While you discover most attendees at Bike Night dress like Halloween partiers in leather and headgear, you also learn the event serves as a welcoming party for our seasonal friends and visitors. Many motorcycle license plates are stamped in Ohio, Minnesota and Michigan. Bike Night starts to convey the same easy spirit as any other communal festival, with kids and couples, all watching for friends or interesting characters. The big difference is rubbernecking at the exquisite detail of a $40,000 machine and its prideful owner. If there are rules for a Bike Night attendee, they include being prepared for the parading rumba line of motorcycles, learning to appreciate another’s hobby and bracing for the first stroke of a super-amplified guitar. After that, things settle into a Florida winter celebration. “It’s pretty chill,” says Arrianne Schuchard, handing out Dixie Roadhouse placards and observing her first Cape Bike Night.
Craig Garrett is Group Editor-in-Chief for TOTI Media.