EAST PEORIA - It is not unusual to see women riding motorcycles today, but it is unusual to see more than 400 riding together. The Motor Maids motorcycle club is visiting East Peoria this week. Motor Maid club members will come from as far east as Atlantic Canada, as far west as California, as far north as Michigan and as far south as Florida. They will range in age from 18 to 92. Mothers will bring daughters who are also members and the club’s history holds more than one precedent for three generations of a family holding membership.
The Motor Maids were formed in 1940 when founders Linda Dugeau and Dot Robinson composed a list of 51 female motorcyclists who would become the charter members of an all-female club. In 1941, the American Motorcycle Association issued the Motor Maids a charter. In the intervening 76 years, membership has grown to over 1,300 members from a wide diversity of age, ethnic, and religious groups. The common threads that binds them are a passion for riding, promoting safe riding habits and presenting the world with a positive image of women on motorcycles.
An honor guard of Motor Maids in full uniform will carry the colors around the track in August before the Grand National Tour Trophy race at the Peoria Motorcycle Club. This month, the Motor Maids will hold their national convention in East Peoria.
“We picked the Peoria area because it’s centrally located,” said Motor Maids president Susan Gibson. “Also, we have a connection with the Peoria Motorcycle Club, because we’re invited every year to ride with the colors at the Tour Trophy. We expect 432 members to come to this convention and 119 guests. That could break our attendance record. We had 422 members come to our 2015 convention, when we celebrated our 75th anniversary.”
“The Motor Maids are having a great turnout this year because they’re having this year’s convention in the Midwest,” said Jodi Tarter, regional sales manager for the Par-A-Dice Casino Hotel. “Riders from the West Coast might not be willing or able to ride their motorcycles to a convention on the East Coast, and East Coast riders might not be willing or able to make it to a convention in New Mexico or Arizona.”
The Motor Maids will start arriving on July 9. A requirement for prospective members is that they or an immediate family member own a motorcycle and that they ride their motorcycles to the convention. Most of the conventioneers will stay at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria, while the overflow will stay at the nearby Hampton Inn or Stoney Creek Inn. The convention will be July 11 through July 13.
Highlights of the convention will include a Red Ribbon Breakfast, at which the club will recognize first-time conventioneers. The Motor Maids will also participate in its signature Dot Robinson Road Run, a timed road race with secret checkpoints. The Motor Maids will compete in two classes: A for members who have previously won trophies in the event and B for riders seeking their first trophy. The club has been running the Dot Robinson Road Run since 1956. Donna Behnke, a member of the Motor Maids for 50 years, will join ten other Motor Maids as Golden Life members and will be inducted into the distinguished group at the convention.
The true climax of the Motor Maids national convention will be the parade on July 11. Members will line up their motorcycles in the Par-A-Dice parking lot, ride down East Peoria’s Main Street in full uniform and end the parade in front of East Peoria City Hall in the Levee District. There, the Motor Maids will display their motorcycles in a manner similar to a classic car Cruise In and explore dining and shopping opportunities.
“The Par-A-Dice and the Peoria Area Convention Bureau were instrumental in getting the Motor Maids to come here,” said Rick Swan, executive director of the East Peoria Chamber of Commerce. “This is a great opportunity to show a national organization what the Peoria area has to offer. When we showcase our communities to national groups like the Motor Maids, convention planners will notice. If we’re successful in showing the Motor Maids a good time, that will encourage future conventions to come here. More conventions will mean more commerce.”