When Pete Fisher was about 5 years old, he pushed his first motorcycle home.
“We had a renter on the property and he told me, foolishly, ‘If you can push it off, you can have it.’ So it was on,” said Fisher, as a smile idled in the wrinkles around his electric blue eyes. “It was probably 200 feet, but it was an all-day deal. But I got that sucker. It was going home with me.”
He may not have known it then, but the feat of getting that motorcycle across the property that day sparked what would become a lifelong appreciation of classic motorcycles
Decades later, in 2006, Fisher, a Central Oregon resident, created the Crooked River Ranch Steel Stampede.
This year, May 6-7 will mark the 11th consecutive year of the vintage motocross and trials event, which is held on specialized courses at the ranch.
“All the motorcycles we play with on motocross are ‘74 or older. For the trials portion, the machines can be up into the late ‘70s,” said Fisher.
The trials event will take place on Saturday. “Trials,” Fisher explained, have been going on since the early 1900s. This is not a race — instead, this portion of the weekend-long event is more of a skills contest, where participants face a challenging ride riddled with obstacles. The course is specially designed for classic-style motorcycles, and riders are split into classes and scored on their ability to navigate the course. A successful trials rider will display control and maneuverability through the course, without stopping or touching their feet to the ground.
Initially, trials of this sort were designed to test the capabilities of the motorcycles themselves. The Stampede takes a similar approach, however, the aptitude assessment also shifts from machine to rider during this event.
On day two of the Stampede, the motocross race involves much more throttle. Each class of riders participates in two races called “motos,” one in the morning and one in the afternoon. For these races, control must be accompanied by speed. Sunday’s motocross portion will demand that participants perform turns, jumps, and feats of acceleration that test the machines, rider control, and the laws of physics.
According to the event website, “Scoring for Motocross is much simpler than trials, first to the finish line wins!”
Even those who don’t place in the trials and races have an opportunity to win at the Stampede. All event attendees are invited to vote in the “You be the Judge,” show. The show is all about the motorcycles, and winners are determined by spectators rather than a panel of judges, with seven categories as well as one overall “people’s choice” selection.
“You might want to bring a camera,” said Fisher. “You’ll see bikes that you’ll never see anywhere else.”
In addition to the spectacle the motorcycle event offers, attendees are also invited to peruse and purchase a wide variety of merchandise from vintage motorcycle parts and accessories to t-shirts at the ‘Show and Swap,’ which will be open throughout the weekend in the area adjacent to the trials and motocross.
Ranch Manager Judy LaPora speaks highly of the event.
“The Steel Stampede is a benefit for the entire Crooked River Ranch community,” she said.
Half a century after dragging his first motorcycle home, Fisher created the Crooked River Ranch Steel Stampede out of equal parts passion and need as the ranch was struggling to fund its volunteer fire department.
“There seemed to be resistance to funding the fire department and that seemed so strange to me,” Fisher said. At the time, he added, the department was operating out of a tiny facility and desperately needed to build a new fire station.
“A few ladies were offering to make quilts, and baked goods to help,” said Fisher. “I can’t bake a cake, and I can’t make a quilt, but I can put on an event.”
Fisher delivered on his sentiment. The first year, all profits from the Stampede were handed directly over to the volunteer fire department. Shortly after, a bond measure passed, putting the rest of the funds in place for the department to build their new fire station.
More than a decade later, a portion of the proceeds still goes the Crooked River Ranch Fire Department. Money raised over the years has also been distributed to other community groups including the local scouts, boys and girls club and church groups. Other community enrichment projects have also benefitted from the event’s proceeds, such as the installment of the local disc golf course.
Fisher is humble about his accomplishments, but the future of the event and the ranch look promising.
The Stampede’s increasing popularity reflects a growing interest in vintage motorcycles, with enthusiasts of the classic two-wheeled machines thundering in from all reaches of the United States, Canada and even from across the globe.
Since its inception, the event has been a labor of love, demanding tremendous time and effort. However, Fisher is quick to highlight volunteers who show up in packs, the sponsors who participate and the Crooked River Ranch management, groundskeepers, and committees who come together to help shape the festivities. To ensure a successful weekend, fulfilling eager riders and exciting fans demands the cooperation of an entire community.
As a result of all the hard work, year after year, a tally is put in the win column, not only for vintage motorcycle enthusiasts and riders, but also for the greater Crooked River Ranch Community.