Harley happiness by the thousands

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LEWISTON – They came to L-A Harley-Davidson for the food. They came for the music.

But mostly they came for the Harleys.

“You’ve got to start them off young,” said Cathy Brown of Freeport, touring the bikes with her Harley-enthusiast husband and their 11-month-old son, Connor.

Thousands of bikers, biker wannbes and Harley fans flooded L-A Harley-Davidson in Lewiston Saturday for an all-day open house and Harley fest. The dealership had expected about 2,000 people to show.

By 2:30, it had 3,100.

“We feel very positive, very thankful that we’re so well accepted in the community,” said John Story, managing partner.

L-A Harley offers three open houses a year. The first was held in May “to kind of shake the snow off,” Story said. The third will be held in September.

On Saturday, the distinctive pop-pop sound of Harleys mixed with strains from a live band and the screams of children playing in a bounce house.

“We try to create a family environment within a Harley-Davidson world,” Story said.

Throughout the day vendors offered food, t-shirts, air -brush tattoos, ear plugs. At 2:30 p.m., over a hundred people watched stunt riders perform.

“The stunts are great, awesome!” said biker Charlotte Quimby of Waterville. “The bikers are great. The food is great. Everybody’s getting along.”

Andy Beaudoin of Lewiston brought his wife and dog, a cockapoo decked out in a black Harley hat.

“We want to start riding with her,” said Beaudoin, who got advice from other Harley enthusiasts on the best way to ride with a small dog.

But while learning about custom touring packs was nice, Beaudoin really attended the open house for a grander goal: a new Harley Sportster.

“It’s fun. But I’ll do even better if I win the bike,” Beaudoin said.

Calling into Frank 107.5 FM, 74 people each won a key that could unlock the gate and chain guarding the prized 2007 Harley. Sixty-six of them showed up Saturday.

Shortly after 3 p.m., hundreds of people crowded together in the rain to watch. One by one, the 66 key holders tried their luck. No. 4, a woman from Biddeford, kissed her key for luck, but to no avail. No. 23, Beaudoin, got a groan from the crowd when his key didn’t work. No. 32, a middle-aged man, started shaking when he tried the lock.

Then, No. 34’s key turned.

The crowd roared and someone screamed “It unlocked!” With the open padlock in the palm of his hand, Tracy Simoneau of Saco looked stunned.

He didn’t have a motorcycle, but always wanted a Harley. He’d cut his Gulf of Mexico vacation short to be at the open house and to try his key.

Within moments, Simoneau was sitting on his shiny new bike.

“I had to be here,” he said.

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