There was a sound like thunder rolling through the streets of nearby Raton, N.M. last weekend as the Third Annual Run to Raton Motorcycle Rally brought as many as 1,000 bikers to town and big crowds to check out all the excitement in town from Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21 at various locations in the city and surrounding area.
Most of the activities and a large campground were located at the area in and around the Rodman Building, (the former Cimino Ford facility), but other exciting events were located at the Ice House Restaurant, the Colfax Tavern in Cold Beer, N.M., with a showing of the classic biker movie ‘Easy Rider’ at the Historic Shuler Theater on Saturday night. Free camping and live music from multiple bands completed festive summer atmosphere. Biker clubs from Raton and many other communities throughout the region took part in the festivities.
Event organizer JP Rodman, also/known/as ‘Ironhead’ said in a Sunday, July 21 interview that he especially wanted to thank the Independent Riders of Raton, a group that worked to prepare for the event and were a constant presence during the event. Rodman designed and built the custom ‘Trike’ motorcycle, called ‘The Third Trike,’ and featuring a Second World War theme, that was the top prize in an entire series of free giveaways at the event. Alfonzo Koy of Temucalala, Calif. won the top prize. Rodman talked about all the local Raton entities that helped make the Run to Raton such a successful annual event. “The idea kind of from me and a few other guys from Ft. Worth, Texas, who had been going to an annual biker rally in Denver for several years before getting tired of the long trip back and forth,” he said, “We decided to have a rally here in Raton and it’s grown every year since. That was three years ago and we’re still doing it. I don’t know if there were 1,500 motorcycles in town last night because they’re so hard to count, but I sure hope we got clos to that number.”
Big summer events like the Run to Raton and others in nearby communities help stimulate the local economy, boosting business for local campgrounds, RV parks, motels, restaurants, bars and other retail outlets. “We get so much help from Raton’s City Council and Lodger’s Tax Board and other groups that it really helps us put on this event,” Rodman said. “I think it’s a good thing, because everybody seems to prosper from it.”
He got his start designing custom-built motorcycles in 2004. The Pueblo, Colo. native grew up in several New Mexico locations, when he began trying to learn his new trade by asking other custom-built bike designers about it. “I was running around with these older guys in Salt Lake City, and all these older guys had all of these older choppers that they liked to ride, so I kind of learned the trade from them.”
He lives and works at the JP Rodman Paint Works location in the Rodman Building, located at 246 Clark Ave. in Raton, where the phone number is 505-400-8234. “I moved up here about five years ago,” he said. “This is the third trike I’ve built, and we gave another one away at last year’s event.”
Positive comments seemed to come rolling forth from locals and visitors about the biker rally event, he said. “All of these people come from surrounding states and they say they’ve never seen anything like it. Comments like ‘the community really comes together for this event,’ and ‘everybody’s real nice.’ You know, everybody’s always friendly here, so it’s really cool. A lot of people had been here all three previous years, and they keep coming back and telling their friends. Every year, we kind of tweak it a little to try to make it better and better every year. Every year we learn something about how to make it better, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Everybody seems to be having fun.”
Goods galore about the ‘Run to Raton’ were on display and for sale throughout the city on the weekend of the big rally. Rodman was asked what he enjoyed about rebuilding motorcycles in new and creative ways. “Every time I do one of these things I learn a little bit more. I think I’m getting a little bit better at it, and I do get some business out of hosting this rally.”
Other local business people seemed to have that same good idea about building a big local summer event. Raton businessman Paul Headley runs the Apollo Laundry near the Rodman Building and said he had purchased a food vendor’s tent and other equipment to try to capture part of the trade coming into town because of the Run to Raton. Headley said he had high hopes for the future of the event, speaking in a Sunday, July 21 interview. “It’s great to have so many people in Raton on a summer weekend,” said. I’d like to see this rally grow every year, and maybe turn into a weeklong event. It could turn into something like a mini-Sturgis (referring to the annual biker rally in Sturgis, S.D.) “That would be great for our local economy and really put Raton on the map.”