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HOG Rally visitors receive warm welcome
OKALOOSA COUNTY -- OKALOOSA ISLAND - There are lots of rumbling engines and leather-clad riders in Okaloosa County this week. The Harley Owners Group has rolled into town for their annual rally, and they're getting a very warm welcome.
Laura Hussey "To the people who ride these Harleys, it's much more than a way to get from point A to point B. It's a lifestyle, it's a passion."
There will be thousands by the weekend, but hundreds of riders have already checked in for the 30th annual Harley Owners Group rally.
Joe Schwenz rode nine hours to get here.
Schwenz says, "It was really cold leaving Tennessee. My teeth never quit chattering till I hit Birmingham Alabama"
The Hog Rally was in Destin for two years running, but last year the group chose a town in central Florida. A delegation from the Tourist Development Department went to that event to lure the bikers back to the Emerald Coast. Toni Richardson from the Best Western says the trip was well worth it.
Richardson "As you know we're only a hundred-room hotel, so for us we're really a small piece of the pie at the Best Western. However the hotel is full, the Ramada is full, they're eating in our restaurants, they're shopping"
The county used bed taxes to give the rally a couple of incentives: Twenty-five thousand dollars in pre-event marketing; and a five-thousand dollar bonus if the group books 4600 room nights during the event. About 2500 riders are expected, from eighteen states and beyond.
Kerry Saso/Milton "Last year was people from Austalia, Austria, Germany, they come from all over"
Joe Schwenz "We've been really looking forward to it. It's a great vacation. We've taken a whole week for it, we're of work, we're going to have a little fun and we're riding on the beach"
Laura Hussey "So far there's only one problem I can find with this HOG Rally. I've got "Born to be Wild" running through my head and I can't get it to stop!"