GREAT BEND, Kan. - For five consecutive years, the Great Bend Expo Complex has been a destination for hundreds of motorcycle riders looking for a place to kick back and cut loose. The Big Bend Bike Rally puts Great Bend on the map for motorcycle drag racing, live music, and family-friendly biker entertainment to thousands of enthusiasts all over the country, and now the growing annual event will be hitting a whole new demographic of race enthusiasts.
The first-ever Hahn Brothers Supercross Shootout will make its debut at the sixth annual Big Bend Bike Rally on Saturday, Sept. 28. Hosted by reigning Supercross champion Wil Hahn and his brother Tommy, the inaugural motocross event is anticipated to significantly boost attendance because of several unique factors it adds to the Big Bend Bike Rally.
First, the motocross race is the only one of its kind hosted by world-renowned professional riders. The Hahn brothers grew up racing in and around Great Bend and consider this to be their home track. After an EMT was injured at a race in the early 1990s, the track was torn down. Now with the help of numerous sponsors and a team of local volunteers, pro riders are making their mark in the Midwest once again.
"We remember racing at the Great Bend track as kids and wanted to bring back the nostalgic small town entertainment," Wil said. "My brother and I are excited about giving back to this community by putting our name on this inaugural race and pulling in all of our professional racing buddies to draw a huge crowd."
Wil is a professional member of the GEICO Honda racing team and travels the country chasing race purses and national titles. His most notable victory was claiming this year's 250SX championship. Wil's older brother Tommy currently is not racing with a sponsored team but has made quite a name for himself throughout his impressive professional career.
In addition to the name recognition behind this new event, the second factor that will draw a huge turnout is the $7,500 purse for professional riders. National brands Skullcandy and Muscle Milk have partnered with dozens of other sponsors to put up the purse, a key factor in drawing other professional riders. All pro winners also will receive payouts based on the number of registrations.
"The bulk of the riders who come to these events are between the ages of 6 and 18," said Todd Smith, who together with Trent Mermis serves as co-chair for the event committee. "The more pro riders who announce that they are coming to Great Bend, the more kids who will want to come and meet them."
A third factor working in favor of the Great Bend track is the timing of the event.
"The traditional AMA season concludes in late August, so all of the professional racers will be itching for something to do," Wil said. "And because so many of them raced in Great Bend at one time or another, it's also turning into a big reunion for everyone. Being centrally located in the United States doesn't hurt either."
The new track is being constructed at the Great Bend Expo Complex, which will feature expansive pit parking, some of which is shaded. The lit track will allow racing to continue into the evening hours.
A special meet-and-greet event has been scheduled for 4-6 p.m.Thursday, Sept. 26, at Jack Kilby Square in Great Bend. Motocross fans can meet the professional racers who are putting their name behind the event and get exclusive photograph and autograph opportunities. The meet-and-greet is free to attend and is open to the public.
On Friday night racers can pre-register between 6-10 p.m. at the track before heading into town to the Racer Reunion Party at Maggie's Bar, located at 1318 Kansas Ave. in Great Bend.
To get into the dual event taking place on Sept. 28, spectators pay just $10 per person, with kids under 12 admitted at half price. Gates open at 7 a.m. and entertainment goes until midnight.
For a complete schedule and more information, log on to www.bigbendbikerally.com or "Like" the Facebook pages of each event.