LACONIA, N.H. (AP) – Despite a strong finish, overall attendance and sales at the Laconia Motorcycle Week were down compared to past years, bikers and organizers said as the 85th annual rally concluded Sunday.

While the streets were packed for the final weekend, many vendors reported lackluster sales for the week.

“I must be down 50 percent,” said Boone Thompson, who sells sunglasses.

Attendance has dropped each year since hitting an all-high time of 375,000 in 2004. Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the rally, blamed this year’s lower attendance on high gas prices and the sluggish economy.

“Other rallies are having the same problem,” he said. “People are having to make choices about how to spend their money and deciding they just can’t afford it.”

Scott Taylor, 56, of Marlborough, Mass., has been coming to Bike Week for 32 years. He said he’s seen a big change in the last four years.

“The crowds were huge then, and there was a lot of energy. We’re not seeing that this year,” he said. “It’s really dead. There just aren’t that many bikes around.”

Jennifer Anderson, director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said many bikers this year came up for day trips rather than spending the night.

“All 50 states were represented and much of Canada, but what we are finding is most just aren’t staying as long,” she said.

Despite the small turnout, Motorcycle Week remains a big shot in the arm for the state’s economy, St. Clair said. When attendance peaked three years ago, out-of-state visitors left behind $140.7 million.

“I’m sure we’ll bounce back when times are better,” St. Clair said.

There were six motorcycle fatalities and numerous crashes around the state during Bike Week, though it’s unknown whether all the victims were attending the annual event.

AP-ES-06-22-08 1543EDT

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