If you are one of the 4,700, or more, motorcycle enthusiasts who have already bought tickets to attend Nashville Bike Week next fall, you might want to reconsider your travel plans and take a shot now at cancelling that charge on your credit card.
The event had been scheduled for Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and Camp Grounds in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, from September 14 through September 24. Last May, event “promoters,” which as it turns out is a guy named Michael Lewis Leffingwell, promised: “After over five years of planning, we are excited to announce the newest 10-day rally in over 60 years.”
“The scenic state of Tennessee is within hours of more than a dozen other states and with so much to offer, Nashville Bike Week is more than just a rally; it’s an experience.” Leffingwell also promised “101 bands on four stages with nine stunt shows daily.”
The event ran into serious headwinds Monday when Loretta Lynn’s Ranch announced it was “cutting ties with Nashville Bike Week” for failing “to meet the financial terms of the agreement.” The same day Humphrey’s County Sheriff Chris Davis announced he had been fielding calls from throughout the East questioning the legitimacy of the event. And the conjunction of those two events set off a press frenzy in East Tennessee.
The Sheriff told WZTV in Nashville that ticket holders had been asking about the event. “Can we still come? Who do we need to contact? We’re not getting any information from anybody involved.”
The television station tried to interview any of the “promoters” on camera but Leffingwell declined – maybe because he has warrants. According to Nashville’s WKRN, “multiple convictions for fraud and theft, including a federal conviction in Missouri.” WKRN also reports, “authorities have active arrest warrants for Leffingwell for probation violations in Georgia and Missouri. He also has an active warrant in Maury County (Tennessee).”
The event speaks to its customers mostly through its Facebook page. A post on Tuesday claimed Nashville Bike Week had met “all financial obligations” and that the event had fired Loretta Lynn, not the other way around, because the venue wasn’t up to state health standards.
The campground told television station WTVF that Nashville Bike week had never applied for the state permit required for large gatherings.
The numbers for this rally do not add up. The proposed event has bragged that it might attract 150,000 bikers. Leffingwell told WTVF that he doesn’t need a permit because he has only sold 4,700 tickets so far.
Leffingwell has promised to announce a new location for the event tomorrow. Yesterday and today he published two lengthy press releases on Facebook that said in part:
“Launching a first year event this large is a monumental effort. Naturally there are going to be hiccups and bumps in the road that need to be overcome and we are working hard to make sure they are.”
“Nashville Bike Week, the event, is being organized by a corporation not a person. It began as the dream of one person, but one person couldn’t possibly organize an event of this size, so when the dream started to become reality the corporation was formed to protect everyone involved including our customers, vendors, and the entertainers coming to the event. The corporation has officers, employees, attorneys, accountants, an HR department, and bankers just like most corporations. Everyone at Nashville Bike Week is a salaried or contracted employee. Putting on a major event for the first time from the ground up is a monumental undertaking, and we are bound to make mistakes along the way. There is more to the recent news of our relocation than we can elaborate on for legal reasons, but we aren’t letting that slow us down.”
“We have a secured a new venue and have agreed in principle to the terms of the lease, it is approximately six miles from the previous venue. It is larger, with more usable flat ground, and much better suited to hosting an event of this size with room to grow and some freedom to add infrastructure in the years to come. It is more convenient to hotels, restaurants, and the interstate, and it will be easier to get in and out with multiple entry and exit points and full 4G wireless service from every major provider, something the previous venue was lacking. It has both river access for canoeing, and a creek for tubing, stocked lakes for fishing, and we are excited that as soon as all parties have signed the lease we will be able to announce it complete with maps to show the layout and vision for the new long term home of the event. If you have purchased a wristband it is still valid at the new venue, if you rented a cabin you will still have a cabin at the new venue, if you rented an RV or an RV site you will still have the same level of service you rented at the new venue.”
“We are answering the phones and messages as fast as we can to answer your questions, and if you haven’t gotten through keep trying, we will get to you but in the meantime, get ready, Nashville Bike Week is coming and we are in it for the long haul.”
While you are waiting for one Nashville Bike Week’s many officers, attorneys, accountants or employees to answer your phone call you can stare at the event’s website here. If you stare at it long enough, you might actually see it catch fire.