WINCHESTER — Motorcyclists from all over the country rumbled into Grove’s Winchester Harley-Davidson on Thursday evening for the opening ceremony of the Curves to Cores Harley Owners Group (HOG) Rally and a chance to meet actor Erik Estrada, who became a household name when he starred as a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer in the hit TV show “CHiPs” that aired from 1977 to 1983.
For about two hours, Estrada signed autographs, took pictures and hugged the hundreds of fans who lined up to meet him.
“You’ve got to take time,” Estrada, 70, said. “If they are willing to wait this long, I won’t leave until I get the last person. If they are willing to stay, I should be willing to stay.”
Although he has appeared in numerous TV shows and films, Estrada is best known for his role as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello on “CHiPs.”
This wasn’t his first trip to Winchester. In 2009, he served as grand marshal of the 82nd annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival. He also has made appearances in the area to promote internet safety and education to protect children from online sexual predators. He became a deputy with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 and for eight years worked on a task force to combat internet crimes against children. He also served as a reserve police officer in Indiana.
Estrada plans to stay in Winchester until Saturday, the final day of the rally.
He said he loved returning to Winchester and hanging out with Frederick County Sheriff Lenny Millholland, who he called his “buddy.”
“He’s running for re-election, and I want everyone to vote for him,” Estrada said.
The opening ceremony included remarks from Winchester Mayor David Smith, food trucks, performances from local band Souled Out and a people’s choice Bike Show.
Rally coordinator Jo Ann Emmons said there are about 3,000 motorcyclists here for the rally, but the exact number hasn’t been determined. So far, she has heard nothing but good reports from the motorcyclists.
She said the main attraction in the Winchester area is the riding itself, describing the riding opportunities as “phenomenal.”
“The roads are good,” Emmons said. “You’ve got waterfalls, you’ve got mountains, you’ve got nice paved roads. It’s kind of a down-home country feel. Businesses have been very welcoming. I’ve been working on this event for two years to bring it here. ... You can see the enthusiasm. You can see it on the road, you can see it here.”
She described Estrada as very friendly and welcoming to the fans.
“It’s great he’s coming out and doing this,” she said.
“I am extremely pleased with the turnout,” said Grove’s Winchester Harley-Davidson owner Barbara Grove. “There have been folks from every state. I’ve talked to people from Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky. I’m glad they came to Winchester. We have a lot of beautiful roads, and I think that is what brought them. We’ve had some big events here, but not this size.”
Motorcyclist Tony Baker, 64, traveled about 600 miles from Portland, Maine, for the rally.
Baker, who joined HOG in 1987, arrived Tuesday evening and said he has enjoyed the roads and the camaraderie.
“One of the things I enjoyed was the tour of the Patsy Cline House,” Baker said while waiting in line to meet Estrada. “That was very enjoyable. I liked it because the people there were able to answer questions about Patsy Cline that I always wanted to know. So that was fun. And the hospitality of everyone and the events is something I really appreciated.”
Susan McColley, who traveled with a group from the Outer Banks in North Carolina, said that this was her first time in Winchester. She said the organizers of the event put a lot of effort into creating the rides and that the check-in process was perfect.
“It’s gorgeous,” McColley said. “It’s heaven’s country. It’s just beautiful, and the riding is awesome.”
Rally events continue with a Friday Night Live block party downtown from 5-11 p.m. today and a motorcycle parade through Old Town about noon Saturday.