PEKIN - The Pekin Motorcycle Club is not a large organization, claiming a roll of only about 20 members. But that membership comes from all over central Illinois and ranges in age from 18 to over 90. The common factor uniting these people from different communities and different generations is an enthusiasm for flat track motorcycle racing.
“We’ve got all kinds of people,” said Pekin Motorcycle Club president Jeff Tidwell of Washington. “Our oldest member is a WWII veteran who stormed the beaches at Normandy. He’s retired from racing, but he really supports our club and helps out with a lot of young riders with instruction and by sponsoring them.”
Established in 1946, the Pekin Motorcycle Club is the oldest club promoting Amateur Flat Track races in American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) District 17, which includes motorcycle clubs throughout Illinois. The club hosts four or five AMA-sanctioned amateur racing events each year. Competitors range in age from 4 to over 50, while bike classes range from diminutive 50cc motorcycles to four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles to vintage motorcycles.
The largest event of the Pekin Motorcycle Club’s year is the last scheduled race of the season. This year’s Donnie Bargmann Memorial Race is slated for July 22.
“Donnie was a member of our club for many years,” said Pekin Motorcycle Club president Jeff Tidwell of Washington. “He was the announcer for all our races. He also announced a lot of the Grand National races. He was widely recruited because he was one of the best announcers out there, but we got him for all our events because he was in our club.”
When Bargmann passed away in 2014, the club memorialized him both with a racing event and by naming the announcer’s tower at Pekin Short Track after him. In addition to the usual amateur races, the Donnie Bargmann Memorial Race will feature professional riders competing for a purse donated by the club and various local sponsors. Prominent riders who have raced in past memorial events include national circuit racer and Pekin Motorcycle Club member Robbie Pearson, as well as national circuit racers Jeffrey Carver and Henry Wiles. Wiles has won 12 Peoria Motorcycle Club-hosted Grand National Championships and is currently the reigning champion of that event.
“Some top-tier riders come to the Memorial,” said Tidwell. “We’ll be running all our amateur and youth-class races, as well as the memorial race for the professionals. In all, we’re going to have between 17 and 20 amateur and youth classes competing. All of our races are family-oriented. Our racers are right there, so when there aren’t races going on, people can walk through the pits and meet the riders. They can get up close to the bikes and the equipment, and they can ask the riders questions.”
Tidwell said The Pekin Motorcycle Club would not be able to host shows like the Donnie Bargmann Memorial Race without the help of local sponsors like Cupi Motor Mall in Pekin, Country Inn in East Peoria, and Wilco Racing in Bartonville.
The Pekin Motorcycle Club is headquartered at 13714 Mennonite Church Road, Pekin. Admission to all racing events is $10 for adults and free to children under 12. Practice for the club’s amateur races begins at 5 p.m. with competition beginning at 7 p.m. For the Donnie Bargmann Memorial Race, practice will begin at 3 p.m. and the first races will start at 5 p.m.