By Keith Kizer
Photos by: Albert Hicks
The crown jewels of the AMCA are our National Meets and Road Runs. Milk is the drawing card for all grocery stores. Milk is placed at the very back of the store so you are forced to walk past all the things you didn’t come there to buy but are usually enticed to purchase something else during your retrieval of milk.
No pun intended but the Barber Vintage Festival, in October of each year, is our milk. A unique event oddly enough that grew from milk. Let me explain. If you have never been to Barber Motorsports Park I can simply describe it as an 880-acre botanical gardens with a world-class race track and museum in the center of it.
First and foremost none of this would exist today if it were not for George Barber. His father, George Warren Barber founded Barber Dairies in the 1930’s. As a transplanted Alabama boy, I can assure you Barber’s milk is the milk of the South.
Mr. Barber, as his staff refers to him, was once a racecar driver. He became a real estate developer and started collecting cars and motorcycles. The fortune of the family business, the real estate ties, racing and collecting gave birth to one of the most fascinating motorsports wonders of world.
Thankfully we get to take part in this motorsports utopia every October after the completion of the AMCA schedule. The AMCA has been invited each year since it’s opening to represent the club and our chapters.
This event is unique to our own meets. First, this is geared as a spectator event. This is why we participate. Each year over 75,000 paid spectators make a pilgrimage to the Barber mecca to experience, well, the experience!
The event is comprised of AHRMA vintage racing, a 400 space swap meet, a fan zone dedicated to the latest commercial products, bike shows, seminars, motorcycle entertainment and of course the museum. Those lucky enough to have snagged a hilltop motorhome spot overlooking the paddock or one the tent camping spots have a home away from home for four days.
The AMCA is graciously provided a 21,000 square foot area in Lot A to showcase member’s bikes to the general public giving us the opportunity to introduce who we are and what we are about. On any given day we are potentially exposed to twice as many people as we have members.
The event is sometimes more about just being there than participating in any one or multiple events. You could literally have a fulfilled weekend just riding around the perimeter road looking at all the sights. For art lovers, the complex is filled with dozens if not hundreds of sculptures. Heck, even the numerous gates are themselves sculptures.
If you don’t want the inconvenience of finding a parking spot for your bike, you can always jump on one of the numerous trams that continually circle the complex. It truly is the Disney of motorsports. And yes, I said bike. Don’t even think of bringing a car into the facility. There is no room for them.
Due to the mass movement of people, like Mackinaw Island, cars were forbidden a few years ago. Cars have to park outside the facility and shuttle into the park. Again, very Disneyesque. This has made it much easier to get a round. If you are on a bike, you can get anywhere on the grounds in minutes. A lap on a shuttle takes a bit longer.
This family friendly event centers and starts with its museum. Barber’s rotating stock of more than 1,600 immaculately restored and running motorcycles, plus quite an impressive collection of Lotus cars, are the obvious focal point of the park. 216 different manufacturers from 20 countries represent the collection.
Aurora, Colorado has 368,000 residents. That’s how many people visited Barbers in 2018. It is the 4th leading tourist destination in the state of Alabama. If you only measured this by out of state visitors, it would only be surpassed by Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center; Home of NASA.
The question is frequently asked of the value of the collection. Not an answer that is given because it’s complicated. But if you only valued the average motorcycle at $20,000 each that’s thirty-two million dollars. That’s a lot of milk.
But we’re not here to just talk about a building full of motorcycles. The event is the drove of fans outside the museum. An aerial glimpse of the event would show rows crisscrossing the swap meet, the plush trackside hills, the paddock, camping areas, VIP parking lots packed to capacity with people.
Unique to AMCA are four events. First a weekend long display in the AMCA Vintage Garage featuring pre-1930 machines. Outside the massive tent is an eclectic collection of motorcycles ranging from 1930 to 1984. A plethora of Harley’s, Indian’s, Honda’s, BMW’s and everything in-between make up the AMCA Bike show presented by our Music City Chapter from Nashville, Tennessee.
What’s unique are the nearly 100 bikes on display. They are a balance of high scoring AMCA restored and unrestored bikes to daily riders. Unlike other clubs, rust is welcome on the AMCA field. They’re not all trailer queens. Many are ridden to the event, especially those from the local home chapter of the Smoky Mountain members.
The winner’s of the people’s choice bike show were as follows: 1920’s and older – Rick Tidwell / 1928 BMW R62; 1930’s – Newell Wright / 1939 Indian 4; 1940’s – Bobby Smith / 1948 H-D FL; 1950’s – Donnie Eatherly / 1955 H-D FLH; 1960’s – Charles Noble / 1967 BMW RD60; 1970’s – Michael Fair / 1976 BMW R90S; 1980’s – Mike Hereford / 1983 Honda CB1100F; Competion – Ron Anderson / 1974 Bultaco Pursang; and Custom – Tommy Harper / 1962 H-D FLH. For a full list of 1st through 3rd place winner, see “Barber’s Bike Show” on the AMCA News on the Home Page at www.AntiqueMotorcycle.org.