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Annual motorcycle event supporting troops set for Sunday

BEMIDJI — Motorcycle enthusiasts will once again take part in the 130-mile charity ride during the 8th annual Ride for the Troops event Sunday.

Starting at 9 a.m. in the parking lot of Marketplace Foods, more than 500 motorcyclists are expected to gather for a full day of festivities, including a pancake breakfast before the ride begins at noon.

Ride co-founder Ken Donahue said the purpose of Sunday’s event is to show support for the country’s troops.

"The whole essence of the ride is to raise funds to support our troops that are overseas and their families when they run into any kind of financial hardships," Donahue said.

Ride for the Troops annually raises an average of $20,000, according to event committee member Tracy Bailey.

After a brief send-off, riders will make their way southwest to Becida, on to Zerkel, down to Naytahwaush, through Itasca State Park, and over to Shevlin before looping back to Bemidji on U.S Highway 2.

Becoming an annual affair for many community members, Bailey said the support evident all throughout the event is "nothing short of amazing."

"It’s amazing to see the public come out and show their support," she said, saying many residents who live along the route usually sit along the roadside waiting for riders to pass, cheering and waving American flags.

"It is one of the most powerful things you can see," she said.

New to the event this year will be an escort out of Bemidji for the motorcycle caravan by the Paul Bunyan Vintage Auto Club.

After the escort, the auto club will have an afternoon car show from 2 to 5, setup among other attractions that include a hog lunch at 3 p.m., a bounce house, kids’ activities, door prizes, drawings and an auction for both riders and the general public to enjoy.

Anyone interested in participating in the ride can register Sunday morning with a $25 entry fee and $10 fee for any passenger riders.

"They can expect an amazing ride," Bailey said. "They are a part of 500 motorcycles and it is really something."