Rides, Rallies and Events Recap

Freedom Rally

Written by  September 30, 2004

Every year, I celebrate the Independence Day holiday weekend at the Freedom Rally near Algona, Iowa. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the rally that began in Humboldt and was held there through 2001. When it became apparent that the rally would outgrow the Humboldt location, ABATE of Iowa purchased land near Algona where the rally has taken place since 2002. The event is restricted to adults only and includes a full schedule of entertainment.

Shortly after arriving, I tracked down Jim “Viper”Benford, Assistant State Coordinator for ABATE of Iowa. We chatted as he patrolled the park in a golf cart:

CC: How many are you expecting to attend the rally this year?
Viper: We are geared up for 15,000 this year. We had a little over 11,000 last year.

CC: The Freedom Rally was held at Humboldt, Iowa for many years. Tell me about the reasoning for the move.
Viper: We pretty much outgrew Humboldt. We only had 60 acres, and we were getting crowds over 10,000. We just had to find a place to expand. The Algona property was formerly an elk ranch. It was basically pasture when we got it three years ago. We put in the roads, the wells, the lighting, the stage, the beer barn, and everything else since then.

CC: What improvements have been made since the 2003 rally?
Viper: We have a new permanent covered patio in the vendor area. We’ve added more roads in the park, getting deeper into the park itself. It’s 140 acres, and we’ve only got about two thirds of it opened up.

CC: So there’s a lot of room for expansion.
Viper: Oh, yeah, lots of room.

CC: How many ABATE volunteers are required for the rally?
Viper: There are about 300. They mainly work four hour shifts. Some of the chiefs and coordinators work a longer shift. Workers come from all 23 districts.

CC: What are the volunteers’ assignments?
Viper: Security, admissions, sanitation, water and fuel delivery, medical staff (assisting Algona EMS), shuttle service and traffic control. Really, for everything that needs to be done in the park, there are volunteers to help with it.

CC: How does the Algona community like having the rally here?
Viper: Algona likes it. The merchants have been really good to us. Many of the businesses are supporters of ABATE, and they help us out a lot. They do things for us, and bring out stuff we need with no charge when we’re working in the park. The community has been really supportive!

CC: What would you say makes this rally different from others?
Viper: Well, I’ve been to Sturgis many times, and Algona is a lot more laid back. It’s not as congested. We have a lot of great stuff going on. We’ll continue to add things to make it better every year.

CC: How many vendors are there?
Viper: We have 36 food and merchandise vendors and tattoo artists this year and plan to expand that to at least 40 for 2005.

CC: Thanks.

Bands performing on stage at the rally this year were Trilogy, Curtis Moore Band, Southern Rock Allstars, Chain Lightning, Black Stone Cherry, Firefall, Poco, The Kentucky Headhunters, Dago & Criminal History, Eric Sardinas, and Rock & Roll Army. Entertainment in the Beer Barn included 2 Brickshy, hypnotist Michael Johns, and Cross-Eyed Mary.

The Freedom Rally is famous for the daily “cool down” that is the Algona version of a wet T-shirt contest. At most rallies contests like this are staged at midnight or later. To the delight of photographers, the “cool down” happens in broad daylight around mid-afternoon. The first order of business is for the audience, by their applause, to divide the contestants into two classes—Sportsters and Big Twins. Prize money is collected from the crowd to be divided among the winners. The ladies shed their inhibitions along with most or all of their clothes as they attempt to tease, strut, and dance their way to victory.
After the Friday show, I visited with Moody who has been the master of ceremonies for the “cool down” for many years and is a Freedom Rally icon.

CC: Moody, how long have you been the m.c. for this show?
Moody: his is my 13th year to do it.

CC: How did you manage to get such a sweet job?
Moody: (After a long pause) I really can’t go into that. It was all above board, but I really can’t go into the details.

CC: You do a good job of keeping the crowd fired up.
Moody: I’m not up here to just watch the girls. My job is instigating the action and making sure the crowd has a good time.

CC: You have to do a little persuading to recruit contestants.
Moody: Yeah, sometimes it takes a while, but there are always lots of ladies in the crowd. They just have to be coaxed a bit.

CC: What do you say to them to get them on stage?
Moody: Just come on up, darlin’. You can win a lot of money and go shopping later.

CC: Will you ever retire from this job?
Moody: I tried to quit five years ago, and they wouldn’t let me.

CC: Don’t you have a son up here now?
Moody: Yeah. He just made me a grandfather in October last year. He’s not allowed to pour the ice water any more.

CC: How do you like the change of location?
Moody: It’s great. We have a lot more area to work with.

CC: Thanks for taking the time to visit.

Nudity isn’t confined to the stage. The stream that flows through the campground is a favorite spot for skinny dippers. There are lots of semi-nude and nude riders motoring through the campground at all hours. Booby beads are abundant.

Each year, ABATE makes improvements to the grounds and seeks to add to the entertainment. This year there was a mechanical bull and a climbing wall. Other scheduled events were to include a bike show, field events, sled pulls, and dirt drags. However, rain fell sporadically throughout the weekend and was very heavy at times. Low-lying areas were flooded. Although the main roads throughout the park are rock, all of the grassy areas were thoroughly soaked making it difficult or impossible for some of the events to take place. The bikers were not about to let Mother Nature get the best of them, however. Impromptu mud wrestling and mud-bog racing provided unscheduled entertainment.

During the weekend I had enjoyable conversations with Terry Orr and Nate Ullrich whose photos I have admired in biker magazines for years. I also had the privilege of meeting Clean Dean Shawler, editor in chief of Biker magazine, an Iowa native. I was also pleased to see some folks I knew from Kansas City. Eric McNutt made the trip on his Celtic Customs chopper that was featured on the cover of the May issue of Cycle Connections. I was impressed. I had assumed that bike was a trailer queen.

The weather was clear for the return trip. I had the pleasure of riding as far as Ames with my friends Mike and Deb. After a quick tour of the Iowa State campus, not far from their home, I once again headed south. As usual, it was a holiday weekend well spent. I’ll be looking forward to attending the 2005 Freedom Rally.

Story and Photos by Stripe