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Better late than never, Franklin jumps on board the motorcycle tourist scene

Franklin, long a popular byway for motorcyclists heading to Highlands, or via N.C. 28 to the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap in Graham County, wants to capture some of those pass-through dollars.

Next year in August, Franklin’s Tourism Development Authority will host a three-day motorcycle rally. It will take place along U.S. 441 north in a field usually reserved for one of the many gem and mineral shows Macon County is renowned for.

“I think it would be great,” said Doug Hastings, the owner of the Moka Latte Express on Highlands Road just outside of Franklin. “This is ideal motorcycle country. Anytime we can bring revenue into the area that is clean — and most bikers are clean — it’s good.”

Franklin joins a long list of towns trying to court the motorcycle dollar. Maggie Valley is already well-established as a biker-friendly town, with numerous motorcycle festivals every year and a renowned motorcycle museum. Cherokee has been successfully tapping the motorcycle market for years as well, along with the string of communities in closer proximity to the infamous Tail of the Dragon and Hellbender routes, each with dozens of twisty curves per mile.

Mike Grubermann, Franklin town planner who serves as a liaison to the TDA, said a topnotch, reputable promoter with considerable experience in organizing similar shows in Georgia has been hired. Plans call for the event initially to be financially subsidized by the tourism group, but to ultimately become self-sustaining.

Grubermann said a motorcycle rally fits well into Macon County’s push to capture more tourism-related dollars.

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“The nature and background of motorcyclists have changed over the years — this is not a Hell’s Angels event,” he said.

Grubermann said most tourism-drawing events in Macon County attract about 3,000 people, and that the motorcycle rally is expected to start with 1,000 to 2,000 motorcyclists and build up to the 3,000 number.

“We have some wonderful motorcyclists come through,” said Patti Koch, who owns Peppermint Patti’s Ice Cream & Sweets with her husband, Eric, and supports the concept of a motorcycle rally in Franklin. “They’re all stopping in on their way to the Tail of the Dragon. This year, I’ve seen whole convoys of them.”

Not everybody is enthralled with the idea of bringing in motorcyclists for a rally, however. Alderman Bob Scott said the TDA needs to do more research on holding such a rally, including finding out how such events have gone in other towns. “How does this fit into Franklin’s reputation of being family friendly? I have serious reservations about this expenditure of tax funds.”

Minutes of the TDA meeting show that $14,800 was approved for marketing and promoting the event.

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