(Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in Thunder Press Magazine back in 2001. The story will give you some insight into the early beginnings of Leesburg Bikefest and why it has evolved into the hugely successful event it is today. Leesburg was used by many other small towns as a blueprint for their own biker parties.)
Leesburg, FL - April, 27 – It was 2am Sunday morning and I was headed for my bike at the end of my first visit to the Leesburg BikeFest last year. Only a small sliver of the 20,000 bikers who had filled the now-deserted Main Street remained, along with a few of the local law enforcement types who were overseeing the closing up of downtown. I turned as a voice beckoned, “Hey, you!” I looked towards Leesburg policeman Gregg Woodworth as he continued, “Did you have a good time here today?” “Sure did”, was my reply as I tried to figure out if the big cop was doing his own version of a field sobriety test. “Well that’s good, come on back next year and see us again,” and he wished me a safe ride home. Now let me tell you about all of the other rallies I’ve gone to and had a police representative inquire to see if the festivities were to my liking and then extend an invitation to return. ‘Nuff said. I just spent my second weekend at the Best Little BikeFest in Florida.
Leesburg, which sits between Ocala and Orlando in the middle of Florida, is cross between Mayberry and Hazzard County. There’s no Andy or Barney, but I did spot some local girls who could give Daisy some competition. To get there from Tampa, you can take I-75 and hop off at Wildwood and turn east, or you have the option to cover the 80-mile journey along a more leisurely and scenic route through the central Florida countryside.