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Ride for the Troops: Annual motorcycle event set for Sunday

Motorcyclists stream through the countryside during the 2010 Ride for the Troops. Submitted Photo

More than 400 motorcycle drivers and their passengers toured the Ride for the Troops in 2010, and organizers expect a similar, if not bigger, response for the sixth annual event Sunday.

"We've gotten so big now people are planning around us," said Mark Peterson.

Registration and breakfast will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at MarketPlace Food parking lot. The cost is $25 per motorcycle plus $10 for each passenger. Breakfast and the Hawg Lunch of pork barbecue and fixings, served at 3 p.m., are included in the registration fee. For those not riding, the meals are free-will donation.

Prior to the send-off at noon, there will be a ceremony featuring the Bemidji VFW Color Guard and Ralph Gracie American Legion Post Firing Squad, a prayer by Disabled American Veterans Chaplain Walter James, the National Anthem sung by Maggie Buckanaga and the playing of Taps.

The route tours from MarketPlace along a flag-lined boulevard to Becida, through Zerkel, Naytahwaush, Itasca State Park, Shevlin and back to Bemidji. The Blackduck American Legion Color Guard will meet the riders at Zerkel, and the White Earth Color Guard will meet them at Naytahwaush.

Blue Star Mothers, who have or have had children serving in the Armed Force will serve breakfast and lunch, with assistance at breakfast by Boy Scouts. The Junior ROTC Color Guard will also honor the riders and the Civil Air Patrol will organize parking.

"The volunteers really come out of the woodwork for this," said Ken Donaghue, organizer with Jason Fredenberg of the first Ride for the Troops in 2006.

He said he and Fredenberg had ridden group motorcycle tours together in the fall of 2004.

"At that time, we knew our National Guard was leaving, so he said, 'Let's have a Ride for the Troops next spring.'"

The whole thing is for the troops," said Bruce Wold of ride sponsor MarketPlace Foods. Although he wasn't able to serve in the Armed Forces, he said he had three brothers serve in Vietnam and one brother serve just after that war. "This means a lot to the troops."

All the money raised is used to help veterans and deployed soldiers and their families when there is need. Applicants are screened by a Ride for the Troops committee.