ELKHART — Saturday’s Freedom Ride saluting fallen soldiers from Elkhart County appears to be gaining plenty of attention.
The 70-mile ride begins at 2:30 p.m. at Hoosier Harley Davidson, 720 W. Bristol St., Elkhart, and will pass through the towns of Bristol, Middlebury, Goshen, Nappanee and Wakarusa before returning Elkhart’s Civic Plaza and Central park for a Bike Night Rally, a celebration that will include live music and concessions.
Family members of fallen soldiers from Elkhart County have been invited to ride along in military vehicles as part of the Freedom Ride.
James Ballard, president of Elkhart Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52, believes about 30 family members representing 11 soldiers from Elkhart County who died will participate in the ride.
A memorial service that will include some speakers as well as bagpipe music and a 21-gun salute will begin at about 5:30 p.m., Ballard said.
Ballard thinks the ride could include more than 1,000 motorcycles.
Based on pre-registration and interest on a Facebook page created for the event, Ballard said he thinks turnout could be even stronger than last year’s cycle ride honoring fallen police and firemen when about 1,000 motorcyclists participated.
“I’ve been getting calls from as far as French Lick, Indiana. People who are riding in the governor’s ride on Friday night say they’re coming up Saturday morning. I’ve got people from Fort Wayne bringing groups,” Ballard said.
He said members of the Patriot Guard, a motorcycle group that has served as a buffer against the radical Westboro Baptist Church at military funerals has also expressed an interest in participating.
Same-day registration for the Freedom Ride is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hoosier Harley Davidson. Advance registration is at North End Cycle, 2426 Cassopolis St., Elkhart, until 7 p.m. today, Aug. 10.
The registration fee is $20 for the cyclist and $10 for a passenger.
Money raised from the Freedom Ride will go toward the Wounded Warriors Project.
Ballard says corporate support for the event has been tremendous and will help ensure that 100 percent of all donations go toward the Wounded Warriors Project.
The event is organized by Elkhart Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52 and the International Association of Firefighters 338.
Also participating are local members of Axemen Motorcycle Club, made up of firefighters, and the Blue Knights, made up of police officers.
Firefighters will be collecting donations with fire boots during the event at the plaza and Central Park.
Entertainment will include Stephen Pearcy, former lead singer for the rock band, Ratt, and the Catman and the All-Niters.
The Wounded Warriors Project raises awareness and money for those who incurred service-related injury or illness on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
Saturday’s bike route changed slightly this week because of recent road work south of Goshen. Because of the road work, organizers deemed it too dangerous for a large amount of biker traffic, Ballard said.
The revised route south of Goshen will use S.R. 15. To see a detailed map and listing of streets for the entire route go to the city of Elkhart’s website and scroll down to the link.
Pictured are photos of men from Elkhart County who have died while serving their country during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.