For Rendezvous ‘family,’ event an annual reunion
3-day motorcycle rally kicks off its 35th year
MARIAVILLE Bambi tends to pack light when she attends the Harley Rendezvous.
On colder days, the 57-year-old Capital Region woman throws on shorts and a tank top. But when mild weather is in the forecast, Bambi’s attire is generally limited to some shades, a pair of black boots and a G-string.
“I walk all over the place,” she said. “I’m a people person, and I like to meet new people.”
Bambi tends to leave an impression on people, too, her husband, Glenn, mused. Every time the couple rounds a corner, he hears a chorus of people calling out her name.
“We love every minute of it,” he said.
The growl of several thousand motorcycles intermittently revving echoed across the sprawling Indian Lookout Country Club on Friday, a cacophony diminished only near the main stage, where Southern rock boomed into the evening. Bambi, who preferred not to give her last name, sat at a stocked bar that seemed peculiarly out of place next to her campsite and several hundred others set up on the hillside.
Behind the stainless steel counter stood Paul Milluzzo, a Massachusetts man who built the bar from scratch to bring to stock car races and, of course, the Rendezvous. A procession of people ambled by, some stopping to sample the 1,700-plus Jell-O shots he made for the occasion and passed out free to anyone willing to accept one.
Some knew him by name. Others just remember his black-and-white checkered bar, a place that hops from dusk until dawn.
“This is the place to be at night,” he proclaimed.
Only there’s more to the Rendezvous than beer and bare chests. The people who attend the annual three-day motorcycle rally in the sleepy hamlet of Mariaville regard it as a sort of homecoming — a weekend where they meet up with family they haven’t seen since the last Rendezvous.
Every year, Milluzzo sees Bambi’s camp set up next door. And every year, he takes a picture with her behind his bar.
“You meet a lot of good people here,” he said.
His friend Ronnie Baboury agreed. Now in his eighth year attending the Rendezvous, he wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“You’re only here once a year, and it’s like you’re with your best friends,” he said. “And where else can you walk around naked if you want to?”
Now in its 35th year, the indomitable Rendezvous attracts a blend of free-wheeling, generally easygoing people from many walks of life. Unlike other large rallies and swap meets around the Northeast, the Rendezvous draws a crowd that is an extended family of sorts.
“They look forward to meeting up every year and reconnecting,” said Frank Potter, the caretaker of the country club and ringleader of the adult-oriented circus he hosts each year. “It’s not like a normal show.”
The crowd of roughly 6,000 are also the ones who dictate the tenor of the Rendezvous. Potter organizes the music and invites the vendors, but the party is all up to the masses who attend.
“In general, it’s their party,” he said gesturing to the crowd. “We provide the entertainment, and the rest is up to them.”
The rules are pretty simple, too: Be nice to your neighbor, and check your politics at the door. Potter calls it exercising the right to assemble in an orderly fashion — albeit one liberally splashed with beer.
This year’s Rendezvous narrowly missed a spate of nasty weather that made setting up the event a logistical nightmare. In late May, a tornado ripped through Mariaville, toppling about 50 trees at the country club and wreaking havoc on its roads.
The extraordinary amount of rain this month also made a mess out of the roads, Potter said. Then, earlier this week, the country club was besieged by a hailstorm.
“We had to slow down the pace of people coming in because of the amount of damage we received,” he said.
By Friday, though, it was smooth sailing. The Rendezvous and its rollicking crowd basked in sunny skies.
Scottie Southwick stood in his kitchen putting the last touches on a meal for 20: beer-can chicken, smoked pork loin and veggies, all prepared on the back of a trailer parked behind the main stage. He is the defacto cook for his group, so Southwick’s friend built him the kitchen — complete with dual smoker and oven — to help feed their large group or anyone else who stops by.
Across the street were a group of bikers from Canada that he’s seen for many of the 14 years he’s attended the Rendezvous. Now, they’re old friends he sees for just three days out of the year.
“It’s like coming home to family,” he said.