The Bikes Blues and BBQ organizing committee announced in a Facebook post Thursday evening that the 2021 charity motorcycle rally traditionally held each fall is postponed indefinitely.
The 2021 event was scheduled for Sept. 22-25.
The move comes hours after University of Arkansas officials on Thursday cancelled the university’s licensing agreement to grant Bikes Blues and BBQ attendees on-campus parking because of the recent strain on local medical providers from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on Tuesday that every ICU bed allotted for COVID-19 patients in Arkansas was full.
“At this time Bikes Blues and BBQ organizers do not feel they can offer a quality event with such massive changes on such short notice,” organizers wrote on Facebook. “We will be postponing the event at this time.”
The UofA has worked with Bikes Blues and BBQ organizers for years, providing rental parking for the motorcycle rally, which has attracted upward of 400,000 people in past years, according to the organizing committee.
University administrators terminated the parking license in response to a letter sent by Washington Regional Medical Center officials to Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan on Wednesday requesting that the rally be postponed. In the Bikes, Blues and BBQ nonprofit’s post Thursday night, organizers noted that the hospital’s leadership sent the organization a similar letter Thursday, as did the City of Fayetteville.
“To hold such an event at a moment when our region’s healthcare systems are overwhelmed responding to the latest surge in hospitalizations resulting from the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is to invite disaster,” Dr. David Ratcliff, chief medical officer at Washington Regional, said in the letter to Mayor Lioneld Jordan.
Ratcliff said the hospitals in the area are already functioning at capacity because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, and could not also provide for patients who might sustain injuries at Bikes, Blues and BBQ.
John Thomas, manager of university communications, said that the university called off the parking agreement to ensure the health and safety of the campus and Northwest Arkansas community.
“With our students returning to campus, we are concerned about ensuring that local medical resources can be focused on the ongoing health and safety needs and regularly planned activities of our campus and local communities,” Thomas said.