SYDNEY — In the past, it may have roared into town with the rumble of hundreds of motorcycle engines but Bikefest 2014 appears to be disappearing with just a farewell grumble on social media.
"It is with great sadness that we announce the cancellation of this year's Bikefest," read the notice on Facebook midday Tuesday. "It was not an easy decision to make as it is something that is near and dear to our hearts. We have worked hard every year to grow and keep the event going because of the importance to the Cape Breton economy and the motorcycle community. But due to lack of sponsorships and funding, it has made the event impossible to put on this year. We would like to thank our dedicated volunteers and local motorcycle clubs for their support."
A shorter notice was also on Cape Breton Bikefest: Thunder in the Highlands website, saying the event's demise was “due to circumstances beyond our control.”
Event executive director Leah Boyd said she would email a press release explaining matters but she wouldn't elaborate any further.
Since it began, Leah and husband Scott Boyd have been among the main promoters and organizers of the event but in the past year, both have moved to New Glasgow, where they are now based.
In the past five years, Cape Breton Bikefest Thunder in the Highlands became a signature tourism event, attracting 10,000 participants while pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. This year, it was suppose to run Aug. 1-4.
Although funding had been cited in the Facebook message as a deciding factor to cancel the event, Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. spokesman D.A. Landry confirmed ECBC had offered the Cape Breton Bikefest Society funding to assist with the hosting of this year's event.
"We had. So we offered the Bikefest folks $30,000 to assist with hosting Bikefest 2014 — the amount is consistent with the level of support provided in both 2012 and 2013," said Landry. "The organizers chose not to proceed with the event and the offer was cancelled."
In 2011, ECBC pumped $100,000 into Bikefest when the total cost of the event was $335,000.
This would have been the sixth year for the event, which last year attracted 10,000 bikers from across North American and even Europe for three days of motorcycle-related concerts, motorcycle safety courses and demonstrations. The event website describes the island-wide gathering as a cultural and historical celebration that draws bike enthusiasts from all over North America and Europe.
Organizers estimate the event pumped $5 million into the Cape Breton economy in 2013. While most events were free, one event, the annual Storm the Fortress which sees bikers tour the Fortress of Louisbourg, is expected to still continue this year.