About five years ago, Dan Miller of Antwerp, Ohio, was going on a cruise leaving from Galveston, Texas. But two weeks before he flew into Houston, the ground transportation he arranged to take him 60 miles from Houston to Galveston went “belly up.”
So he picked up his Gold Book, an address book of Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA) members, and called a stranger, Gold Winger William Dagg of Galveston.
Dagg helped Miller arrange for new transportation to his cruise, and upon Miller's return, Dagg drove him 60 miles back to the airport.
“That's what Gold Wing members do for each other,” Miller said. “If someone's in need, we help them.”
The family-like GWRRA is a nonprofit motorcycle riders' organization whose motto is “Friends for Fun, Safety and Knowledge,” which has more than 72,000 members in 50 countries. GWRRA membership is open to all motorcyclists, whether or not they own a Honda Gold Wing.
GWRRA hosts its 34th annual Wing Ding convention Tuesday through July 7 at Memorial Coliseum and other sites around town.
Fort Wayne played host for the Wing Ding in 2002 and 2005. The 2002 Wing Ding set an all-time attendance record with 13,721 members and guests. This year, GWRRA Marketing Director Edward Price expects to set a new record, according to a news release.
“For any chapter to host the Wing Ding three years in the same decade is unheard of,” Miller said. “As far away as Nashville, Tenn., people have been asking when we are coming back to Fort Wayne.”
Miller directs the Chapter C-2 Country Cruisers of Fort Wayne, who will host the event with the Chapter D-2 Johnny Appleseed Wings of Fort Wayne and the Chapter G Bikin' Trikin' Wings of New Haven.
Miller's Country Cruisers have 12 active members, all of whom are helping out with the welcome party 6-10 p.m. Tuesday in Grabill and with registration Tuesday and Wednesday at the Coliseum.
“On Tuesday night, we want the public to join us,” Miller said. “There will be a live band, and it will be a mini Grabill Days with apple dumplings, homemade ice cream, corn on the cob and Amish meals.”
The Bikin' Trikin' Wings are volunteering at registration and the membership enhancement booth. At the latter booth, they will help welcome new Gold Wing members and teach current members about motorcycle safety. The club has 71 members.
“We made the host chapter buttons for the three local chapters, so when we wear them, people can ask us questions (about Fort Wayne),” said Chapter Director Rose Jones.
The Johnny Appleseed Wings are the largest Fort Wayne chapter with 60-65 members. They have been involved in the Wing Ding for 23 years, according to Chapter Director Gwen Lamley. This year, they are planning guided tours around the area and assisting with safety seminars.
“They look to us for suggestions and recommendations for things going on,” Lamley said.
Couples from the group have put together “Poker Runs” for riders to enjoy throughout the week, which are self-guided tours around the area named for the Harley-Davidson riders who go from bar to bar, collecting poker cards, according to Lamley. The rides allow visitors to explore the area's sights and history.
This year, self-guided tours have been mapped from the Coliseum to destinations such as the Wabash and Erie Canal Park in west-central Indiana and to Shipshewana.
One major emphasis of the GWRRA is rider safety. A motorcycle crash scene re-enactment with first responders and helicopters is featured 2-4 p.m. Thursday in the Coliseum parking lot. Certified instructors will also direct rider-safety seminars on CPR and first aid training, according to KKT Event Manager for Wing Ding Kevin Thomas.
Other highlights include the Independence Day rooftop celebration and fireworks Wednesday 6-10 p.m. on IPFW's Garage 3 and the week-long trade show so riders can deck their Dingers with pinstripes, chrome accessories, seats and windshields.
Riders have the opportunity to show off their bikes in the Light Parade around IPFW's campus at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday and in the 600-motorcycle Wing Ding Grand Parade at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“For the Light Parade, a lot of (the bikes) are already decked out with LED lights,” Thomas said. “They like to show those off.”
But Lamley says the best part of Wing Ding gatherings is the camaraderie.
“It's about the people you meet from all around the country,” Lamley said. “At each of these conventions, you look forward to seeing those people again. It's a like a big family reunion.”