Last Rally in the Valley a bittersweet event for organizers

Submitted photo Marco Boulanger gets ready for the Iron Horse Ride, part of the annual St. Croix Rally in the Valley. While this has been a popular event in past years, support has dwindled in recent years, and this year’s event will be the last one. The Iron Horse Ride will still take place, and event organizer Charleen Bodley said they are working on new fundraising ideas for next year.

Charlotte County – 2019 was the last year for the Rally in the St. Croix Valley. Event Coordinator Charleen Bodley said they have been running this event since 2012, and she is saddened to see it come to an end. She said a lot of hard work was put into the rally every year, but it is just no longer economically feasible to put on this type of event year after year.

“I wanted to let the public know that it was the last rally,” said Bodley. “We’ve got eight years under our belts. It’s been a lot of hard work. We start in January and we’re not finished until the rally is over in August. It takes that long getting the license, tickets, posters, etc., and then we have to get out and sell the tickets. It takes a while to get it all done.”

Bodley said each year they print up 800 tickets for the annual Harley Davidson motorcycle draw that takes place during the rally. The tickets sold for $50 each, and the chances of winning were pretty high. Bodley commented this year it was a bit of a “hard sell” for the tickets. Still, they managed to sell them, and there were three prize winners. Kevin Murray received the third place prize of $200 and a leather jacket. Jamieson Smith received $1,000 for the second prize, and the motorcycle went to Donna Carson. She had her choice of a Harley Davidson or a Honda side by side, and she chose the latter.

“They (tickets) have usually sold well in the past. This year seems to be a little bit different,” said Bodley. “There’s not as many motorcycle enthusiasts at this end of the province. It’s not a big area, so we don’t get the vendors that we want. We don’t get the participation from the bigger cities coming in. That doesn’t help keep it going. If it wasn’t for the businesses here in town here sponsoring us, and the Town of St. George, the rally wouldn’t have lasted for as long as it has.”

Bodley noted there could be other reasons for the lack of participation in the rally, including the fact they may not have done enough advertising for each event. She said the first year was huge, almost too big to begin with. Now, they can’t even get vendors to come for the event, even though vendor fees are small, just the charge for any electricity they use.

Each year, the Rally in the St. Croix Valley raises money for charities that are supported by Canadian military veterans. She also mentioned that she and other organizers are part of CAV.

“We’re part of CAV (Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Units) in the Atlantic region. Each unit is named after a military battle honour. Ours was named after a battle in France, during the battle of the Somme. Our name was Thiepval. It’s a small town in France that was part of the battle of the Somme. We took our name from that.”

Any money made after the motorcycle is paid for is given to whatever charity they have chosen to support in any given year for the rally. No money is kept for administrative purposes or anything else. In the past nine years that the rally has been running, they have donated approximately $89,000 to veteran-supported charities, including the Ridgewood Veterans’ Wing in Saint John, Citadel Canine out of British Columbia, and Paws Fur Thought. They have also donated to the St. Stephen and St. George legions.

Bodley said she and other event organizers have noticed a lack of participation in the past few years, not only from vendors but also from the community. She said the numbers seemed to dwindle each year.

“No one watches the parade of lights. Some people complained about the noise. It all boils down to support from volunteers, and enthusiasm,” said Bodley. “Weather is also an issue. We’ve had bands to play outside, and it’s costly, and they’ve been rained on. This year we didn’t have a band. We had music, but not a band. We had some indoor music. We’ve had to scale right back because it costs too much money to run this event with a lack of overall support in Charlotte County.”

Bodley noted that the Town of St. Stephen has been great about helping with such things as waiving vendor fees, allowing signage, etc. This event was started as a way to replace the beer fest that used to take place at the Border Arena. She said they managed to do well with it for the first few years, but they need to come up with something new for fundraisers next year. They will continue to do the Iron Horse ride, but they are not sure what they will be doing in St. Stephen.

“We’re going out with a bang and we’re going to try and come up with something new to do next year. One of the things that we do is the Iron Horse Ride from here to St. George. St. George steps up and runs a barbecue,” said Bodley. They’ve had different groups pitch in. The money we bring in goes directly to the charity chosen by the Town of St. George. This year, it was the splash park fundraiser and the local animal shelter. They put on a good barbecue for us, and they bring in music. It’s really nice for the end of the rally and the last ride.”

Bodley and the rest of the event organizers wuld like to thank all of the local businesses that have given their support. This year’s sponsors were Connors Bros., Canadian Tire, Kent’s, Keith’s Building Supplies, Downey Ford, Speedy Glass, The Glass Guys, Subway, Motor Sport +, A&W, Ganong Bros., Fundy Diving Inc., Echoes of Erin, Moosehead Brewery, the Red Herring Restaurant, Jenny Marshall, the Town of St. George, Smet Monuments, and the St. Croix Branch #9 Royal Canadian Legion.

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca