Are you ready for a Wing Ding good time?
Next week, about 8,000 cyclists and members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association will descend on Fort Wayne and the surrounding area for their 34th Wing Ding Convention.
This is the third time in 10 years that the group has chosen Fort Wayne for its national convention site – a rarity, said Kristen Guthrie, marketing manager for Visit Fort Wayne.
This group loves to ride and visit different places, Guthrie said. But they have found Fort Wayne to be a perfect fit.
The five-day event is expected to create an economic effect of between $4.5 million and $5.5 million, Guthrie said.
The group includes a large percentage of retired, older couples who like to dine out and visit local attractions, Guthrie said.
Randy Brown, general manager of the Memorial Coliseum, where the event will be conducted, said his staff has been preparing for the convention for almost a year.
We’re preparing a great culinary experience for the Gold Wings and will bring back the popular Hoosier rib-eye and corn on the cob, Brown said, adding that plenty of ice cream would also be available given weather forecasts calling for temperatures above 90 degrees.
The convention starts Tuesday and runs through July 7, but motorists should be aware and use caution since many riders will start arriving Sunday and Monday, said Bob Boyd, a member of the local chapter.
Being a Gold Wing Road Rider was something that Boyd wanted to do even before he retired from the International Guard and Thunderbird in Decatur, but he didn’t have time.
Now, he and his wife pack up whenever they get a chance and a baby sitter – they have guardianship of their grandson – and take off to ride with other members throughout Indiana, Ohio and Michigan.
In Allen County, three chapters include about 120 members, but the organization boasts members throughout the state, nation and around the globe.
There’s not a place in the world you can go and not get in touch with a member if you need help, Boyd said. The organization publishes a Gold Book with contact information for officers and members willing to offer services or lend a helping hand, if needed, during their travels, Boyd said.
Most Gold Wing Road Riders think of other members as their extended family.
We like the camaraderie, Boyd said.
City and county officials are also excited about the Wing Ding event.
Mayor Tom Henry said he is confident, based on favorable feedback from several recent conventions, that any visitor to Fort Wayne will have a great time. And county Commissioner Nelson Peters said the county is honored and proud to be chosen for the third time by the Gold Wing riders.
The national Wing Ding website notes that Wing Ding 34 and Ft. Wayne, Indiana seem to just go together, like peanut butter and jelly. They have lots to do, plenty of great shops, restaurants and most importantly ice cream shops.