Ride will go through Elkhart, Bristol, Middlebury, Goshen Wakarusa and Nappanee.
ELKHART — Plans for a massive motorcycle charity ride on Aug. 11 that will honor Elkhart County veterans and support the Wounded Warriors Project were announced Monday at Elkhart City Hall.
Organizers of the 72-mile ride hope supporters of the military will line the streets of numerous towns as motorcyclists cruise from Elkhart and pass through Bristol, Middlebury, Goshen, Wakarusa and Nappanee before returning to Elkhart, where a festival environment is planned at the Civic Plaza.
The Elkhart Freedom Ride and Bike Night Rally will begin at 5 p.m. at Hoosier Harley Davidson, 720 W. Bristol St., which is one of the main sponsors of the event.
Mayor Dick Moore announced plans for the ride at a news conference outside city hall Monday morning.
The event is a revival of sorts of Elkhart Bike Night, which last took place about a half dozen years ago.
The ride will feature Indiana National Guard members escorting family members of local soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Moore said he’s been a fan of previous Bike Nights, but said he thinks this year’s cause will eclipse past efforts.
“While we can never pay back the amount that they have given, it has been my pleasure to offer the support of the city of Elkhart for this event,” Moore said.
James Ballard, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52, said he hopes people line the roadways to show their support.
Ballard said he was initially reluctant to ask families of fallen soldiers if they wanted to participate, but “they jumped at the opportunity.”
“They’re very appreciative of that,” Ballard said.
He added: “Really, we’re the ones that should be appreciative for what their family members did for our country.”
Also participating will be members of Axemen Motorcycle Club, made up of firefighters, and the Blue Knights, made up of police officers.
The ride could include upward of a thousand motorcyclists if weather cooperates.
Close to 1,000 motorcyclists participated in the Fallen Police and Firefighter ride last year and Jim Vance of the Axemen said he could envision a similar turnout for the Freedom Ride.
For Vance, the cause hits close to home. His father served in Vietnam. His wife served in the military. He participated in operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom and he has a son who has served in Iraq.
“It’s very touching to be able to give back to these young men and women who are putting their life on the line,” Vance said.
“I’ve got a lot of friends and buddies that have injuries from previous wars and this one,” Vance said.
Registration is open to anyone who wants to ride along. The fee is $20 for the cyclist and $10 for a passenger.
The International Association of Firefighters will be walking around with fire boots during the event seeking donations.
All of the proceeds will go toward the Wounded Warriors Project.
Following the ride, entertainment at the Plaza will include Stephen Pearcy, former lead singer for the rock band, Ratt, and the Catman and the All-Niters.
Concessions will also be available.
The Wounded Warriors Project raises awareness and money for those who incurred service-related injury or illness on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
For information about helping sponsor the Freedom Ride, contact Jim Ballard at 574 360-7152. Or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about registering to ride, contact Mary Anne Ballard at 574 360-9666 or email her at email@example.com.