Over 600 people made their way to the Paris Fairgrounds for the 49th annual Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group’s (CVMG) Paris National Rally on Friday, June 16, 2023.
CVMG is a non-profit organization that aims to promote the use, restoration and interest in older motorcycles.
The group formed in 1968 with just over a dozen members after motorcyclist Peter Gagan sent out an invite to his fellow vintage enthusiasts.
“Peter Gagan had sent out a one-page invitation to a gathering at his house in Port Credit and so we had the very first gathering at his place with a dozen or so people and it just went on from there,” said John Cooper, one of the two surviving members of the original group. “I hosted the second meeting and my family’s home and that winter we decided to formalize ourselves as an entity with a name and elected officials. In subsequent years there was a decision to put on our first rally.”
The group is now celebrating its 55-year anniversary with 2414 members across Canada with 33 different local sections.
“We have 22 sections in Ontario, two in British Columbia, three in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, one in Manitoba, two in Quebec, and one in New Brunswick,” said Chris Ness, CVMG President. “We also have quite a few members who live in the U.S. and they come down for the rallies too.”
The weekend long rally is CVMG’s major event of the year and has been drawing in residents from all over North America to Paris since 1989. Previous to its current home, the rally was first held in Welland, and later in Barrie and Cayuga.
The rallies have since grown steadily over the years with many members making the return to the fairgrounds every June with their families.
Organizers were expecting roughly 3,000 people to attend over the weekend including nearly 600 people set up camp in RV’s, trailers, and tents within the on-site track and 2,400 day visitors.
Throughout the weekend, guests could check out hundreds of vintage and new motorcycles or browse the thousands of items within the large swap-meet/flea market.
From user manuals to tires, magazines, and various motorcycle parts, there were plenty of items to browse, buy or trade.
Under the welcome tent, organizers invited guests for a cake cutting to celebrate 55 years of the group.
On Saturday, many attendees planned to participate in a marque display of the Harley-Davidson model K and later models, the feature bike of this year’s rally, as well as field skill games.
Another annual event during Saturday is the Trillium Reliability run where riders take out a vintage bike out on a mapped-out scenic route and barbecue lunch.
“You complete a course laid out by a local group to show that you have worked on your motorcycle long enough that it works or you know how to fix it on the side of the road with what you have in your pocket,” said Nancy Melcher, previous president of the GPR section. “It’s not just the reliability of the machine, but the reliability of the riders because we’ve got people riding 80 to 90 year old bikes that don’t have lovely suspension, so you’re feeling every bump through your body.”
April Temple Spears has been the Chair of the Paris National Rally for 14 years and spends an entire year planning for the annual event and is always thrilled to see how it unfolds.
“Ever since I’ve been doing this, I’ve just had so much fun planning this big event,” she said. “I get to watch it unfold and you get that satisfaction of bringing all these people together. I love it, I really do and I have the best committee and they are just amazing.”
Chris Ness, the current CVMG President said that the weekend and the group is all about the community and meeting new people.
“What drew me in initially is that I was looking for a way to fix a bike from the 1930’s that I couldn’t restore myself and I needed help and that’s why I got involved,” he said. “But after a while I found that it wasn’t so much about motorcycles and parts as it was about the people. There’s such a huge community and even my wife is involved now because of the whole social thing. She said she never knew there was this whole group of old bike fans and that was an awakening for her and she’s really embraced the social aspect of it all. Everybody is into the same kind of thing and that’s really what it is, it’s networking and finding that there’s so many people that can help you with XYZ bikes, it’s really just an incredible community.”