2017 H.O.T. (Harley Officers Training) in Buffalo New York

In April 2017, your Director, Head Road Captain, Photographer and Ladies of Harley Officer were chosen to attend H.O.T.  The current acronym, H.O.T. is how the brass at The Motor Company describes the Harley Owners Group Officer Training. This acronym replaces the less politically correct, but amusing, P.O.T. The training was originally called Primary Officer Training.

Buffalo, New York rolled out the orange and black welcome mat for all of the H.O.G. members and their guests. We looked like a marauding army dressed in black leather (and one purple vest) and tattoos, but everyone was excited to see us including the Police Calvary as the photos will attest to.

On Friday morning, after an excellent breakfast, your eager and energetic officers were excited to see what was in store for us!  An incredible and roaring opening event introduced us to the theme of this year’s training, “NO BOUNDARIES”.  The bottom line is that sometimes riding clubs can have too many rules, too many regulations and too many requirements……when what you really want to do is JUST RIDE!!!!

The H.O.G. Officer Training, had a few main points that were stressed:,

  1.  RIDE MORE (and who can argue with that);
  2. HAVE MORE FUN (again, no arguments); and
  3. IF it doesn’t have to do with points 1 or 2, seriously, consider why we are doing it?

After the opening ceremonies were completed, the capacity crowd was off to the different classes we had pre-registered for. Chapter officers came from all over the North Eastern United States and Canada.  Classes included Building Strong Foundations, Conflict Prevention and Resolution, Assessing Risk, Forging the Dealer/Chapter Relationship, Group Riding Signs and Strategies, Effective Communication, Inspire through Leadership, Knowing the Family Business, Listening and Communicating with Different Personalities, More Fun – Less Lawyers, The Off-Season, Welcome to the Family, and Creating Exciting Events and Utilizing Social Media.

Common issues that many of the chapters, large and small, mentioned include: “How do we attract younger members?”’; “How do we get people involved?”; “How do we use Social Media”; and “How do we make everyone happy?” All of the instructors did a remarkable addressing these issues and others that came up during the weekend. Some of the best information came from fellow riders and the ways that they have dealt with the same issues in their chapters. The weekend was all about “Best Practices.”

After Friday’s session was completed, the officers from Regina, Lloydminster, and Fort McMurray got together and went to check out the Anchor Bar, “the home of the original Buffalo Hot Wings”. The story goes… on March 4th, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now-famous Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Late that evening, a group of Dominic’s friends arrived at the bar with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother, Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat.  When dinner was served, the Dominic thought it looked like chicken wings, and that part of the chicken usually went into the stock pot for soup. However, Teressa had deep-fried the wings and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit, and it didn’t take long for people to flock to the bar to experience the new taste sensation. From that evening on, Buffalo Wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.

Saturday we enjoyed another amazing buffet breakfast, a jam packed day of back-to-back training, closing ceremonies and an opportunity to kick off the biker boots and put on the dancing shoes for an evening of fun.  After enjoying an amazing dinner the crowd was entertained into the night by the rock band Deja Vu.  We partied and became SuperHeroes (get Brad Carvery to explain that one!) and danced and sang “Happy Birthday” (get Wendy or Samantha to explain that one) until the band stopped playing and then we mixed and mingled and shared stories of our Chapters, Rides, and Events in the Lobby until the wee hours.

H.O.T sure put on a great show for us all. We had about 130 fellow Canadians and 520 Americans making a total of 650 bikers and HOG® members in one spot.

All of our fellow bikers were there to learn, meet people and have fun but the most important thing on people’s minds was building and making their chapters better and supporting their dealers. Some of these American Chapters have up to 1500 members, with forty Road Captains or so and 150 to 200 members showing up at each monthly gathering, 300 at their Christmas party. What a problem to have EH!

There were a lot of different courses to take, and we each took four a day, plus an additional optional course, which we, of course, eagerly attended. We started at 7 am with breakfast and the first course starting shortly after at 8 am, then it was non-stop until 5 pm for two days straight.  Sunday was a little more low key with breakfast, the drive back to Toronto to catch a flight home, not to mention a quick detour to Niagara Falls.  We were tired but filled with lots of great ideas to make our Chapter the best it can be!

HOG® made everything interesting and fun at the same time. Communication and different opinions from fellow biker participants only made the event more amazing. The main focus of the HOT courses was to build chapters, retain membership, get more people motivated and involved, pass the torch properly and respectfully, and build better communication and relationships between the Chapter and the Dealer.

Well I’ll tell you, after hearing from many different chapter directors, officers and retail managers, we came to the realization that the relationship we have between our dealer and Chapter is in stellar shape. One thing that came out of these three days of training was an added respect for Caron and Robbie Hertzog (as if we didn’t love them enough already).  Our Chapter is incredibly blessed to have dealers who care as much about us as we do about them, and who are as active in our Chapter as they are.  If you didn’t know, Caron and Robb host and attend every single Chapter meeting and support the crap out of us (can I say “crap”?).  They help sponsor, organize, promote and attend events.  This incredible husband and wife team (who are high school sweethearts) run a stellar business, are incredible role models to the children, and also find time to support their clients (aka brothers and sisters).

I know that the four of us have come back from HOT with many ideas that can help grow our Chapter and make it more fun and interesting for everyone. Therefore, think about it like this – this is your Chapter, so come on out to our gatherings and meetings to get involved while having fun. Hope to see y’all at weekly rides and events.  Feedback and suggestions are always welcome.