May 09, 2017
Written by: Zach Ledbetter, Vice President of Visitor Development 
Nearly four years ago, Cookeville-Putnam County became home to an event which has grown into one of its most rewarding. Not because of money, but because of the impact of its attendees. A ten-day journey across the country, Run for the Wall is a motorcycle event made of many men and women who have served in the United States armed forces or are riding in honor of someone who has served. The riders have a mission to promote healing among all veterans, call for the accounting of those Missing in Action and Prisoners of War and to honor those Killed in Action. The event, which begins in Los Angeles, California and ends in Washington, D.C., has three routes including the midway route, which stops for an overnight in our community with more than 300 riders. Organizers and attendees will tell you we’ve quickly become the “it” city for this route with our welcome parade, handshakes, hugs and all-around hospitality. That parade will take place again on Monday, May 23 as RFTW makes its way from Interstate 40 traveling north on Jefferson Avenue enroute to the Leslie Town Centre for a private meeting and dinner. They arrive between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m., and we invite you to gather along Jefferson Avenue to welcome them to town. Don’t forget your smiles, waves and, of course, the Red, White and Blue!
You know, before we know it, not just hundreds, but thousands will descend upon the region for the Southern Backroads H.O.G. Rally. As the only 5-day rally in the country, Harley-Davidson riders from around the globe will be everywhere you turn, July 11-15. We’ve been fortunate to host three state rallies, but this year is extremely special. Harley-Davidson Motor Company and Harley Owners Group decided to move to a regional approach as opposed to an event in each state. Narrowing 50+ events down to 16 or so was no easy decision, but the choice of Cookeville as “hub city” was. This isn’t just a big deal for the city, county or region, but it’s big for the entire state of Tennessee and the southeastern region. So, what does a regional approach mean for us as residents? Well, there will be more motorcycles, as pre-registration has already exceeded 1,000. More motorcycles means more visitor spending in our community, which in turn, means less tax burden on local residents.
These events create more than marketing results and economic impact. They create relationships and an even stronger sense of community. For instance, the pride that the motor units of Cookeville Police Department, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Highway Patrol take in escorting the veterans of Run for the Wall into town. Or how about the pure camaraderie that’s built between aforementioned law enforcement agencies and hundreds of attendees during guided rides and competitions of the H.O.G. Rally? Or those you get to know while in your neighborhood restaurant? They create memories that will last forever. This is what we’re all about…experiences. Keep an eye out for our friendly riders. Don’t forget to look twice and save a life. Now, let’s ride!