Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Boo Rally 2012
... the music at this festival is incredible, and the bands are all LOCAL.
JEFFERSON Our charming little sleepy riverboat town tucked away in the East Texas piney woods – is known for being a quaint place to live with beautiful historic homes, peaceful bed and breakfasts, antique shops for blocks, cafés, local theater groups, and a lady’s garden club.
Twenty years ago, those who traveled for miles to spend a quiet weekend antique shopping in Jefferson would never have dreamed that one of the largest bike rallies in the country would one day be taking place right there on those very streets where they lazily strolled. This year, that bike rally is the 15th Annual Boo Benefit Biker Rally to be held Oct. 12, 13, and 14.
If you’ve never been to the Boo Benefit, you really have no idea what to expect. Let’s paint you a picture. It’s 5 p.m. Saturday, and you’re standing in the middle of a huge crowd on Austin Street in front of the world famous Auntie Skinner’s Riverboat Club. As far as you can see in either direction, there are rows and rows of motorcycles lined and double-parked in the streets. The air is filled with the smell of smoked meats, hamburgers, and numerous other delicious food smells coming from the next street over where you’ll find rows and rows of vendors. You hear music – really good music – including classic rock, blues, and country. It’s all around you coming from three stages on the streets. You look south down Austin and see over 1000 people. You look to the north end of the town toward the train depot and you see somewhere between 10 and 30 thousand more.
Why are so many people here? There are two simple reasons: 1.) It’s fun, and the festival and music are free. 2.) This event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for a good cause, and that’s what we East Texans like to do!
The Boo Benefit started in 1998 when East Texan Charles “Boo” Chaler had over 95% of his body burnt in a welding accident. Boo, being “one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet,” had a lot of friends who knew how much he loved to ride, so they put together a bike rally to cover the medical bills.
Between 300 and 400 people showed up that year and raised $4,000 while Boo was still in the LSU Burn Center in Shreveport. Boo and his wife donated the proceeds to the Percy R. Johnson Burn Foundation. The foundation provides a cost free camp for children and youth burn survivors. As attendance to the Boo Benefit increased each year, so did the donations. In 2008, Boo was happy to also be able to make an annual contribution to the burn unit at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston.
The attendance has grown for the event over the last 15 years from 400 to somewhere around 40,000. Last year, the contribution to burn victim charities was $253,000. Boo said it best, “East Texas bikers are just looking to raise money for a good cause.”
This year’s rally will kick off at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 with the first of several “bike rides” of the weekend. The music will start at 11 a.m. Friday with the Justin Merritt Band on the Excel stage and continue throughout the weekend. There will be over 20 local bands performing on the Excel, Budweiser and three other stages. This year you can catch the performance of Testone Babies, Southern Pride, Alan Fox Band, Destiny Duke and the Hazards, Lady Chazz and the Tramps, Dagnabbit, White Trash Wannabees, and Teazur, just to name a few. (You can find a complete list of bands and performance times on the Boo Benefit website.)
The highlight of the Boo Benefit Biker Rally is the Biker Ball. The ball is held Friday night at the Jefferson Visitors Center on North Austin Street. There will be a silent auction, games, and great music from the local band Shinebox. (There is a charge for tickets to the Biker Ball, and it is recommended that you buy them in advance.)
One thing I would like to point out to you, the music at this festival is incredible, and the bands are all LOCAL. I asked Boo if he ever brought in big name bands. His reply, “We found that we have so much great local talent in East Texas that we could provide good entertainment and save all that money we would pay other bands for travel expenses. That money can go to the kids.” Boo also added that he tries to see every band while they play the beneift. “The one thing I regret is not being able to thank each band individually for their help in raising money through this rally.”
Everyone involved in the Boo Benefit hopes this will be their biggest year so far. You’ll actually find the festival growing into surrounding towns such as Marshall as the city adds their own “Boo Events.” Charlie’s Backyard Bar will be bringing in plenty of live music of their own for the special weekend.
We tip our hat to Boo, his family, and all his friends for not only a weekend of great entertainment but for showing everyone how big are the hearts of East Texans.
For a complete list of bike rides, registrations, music schedules, and photos of past events, you can go to the official website for the Boo Rally.