In 2006, motorcyclists Jason Fredenburg and Ken Donaghue organized a spring ride and social to raise donations for the National Guard and soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We were hoping for 100 bikes, and I think the number was 147 that year, so it exceeded our expectations," Donaghue said. "Since then, we've more than doubled."
Sunday morning, bikers from Canada, Minnesota and North Dakota will gather for a 9 a.m. pancake and sausage breakfast prepared by Bemidji Boy Scouts in the MarketPlace Foods parking lot in the Westwood Center. At noon, the motorcycle caravan will head out for a ride around Beltrami, Clearwater and Mahnomen counties.
From Bemidji, the riders will travel through Becida to their first stop at the Zerkel store. They'll continue on to Naytahwaush and circle south and back east to stop at the Headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca State Park. From there, they'll head north on Clearwater County Road 2 to U.S. Highway 2 and back to MarketPlace with a police escort into town. At 3 p.m., there will be a Hawg Lunch - pulled pork, potato salad and beans - prepared by MarketPlace. Blue Star Mothers, women who have children serving in the military, will help serve lunch.
Entertainment will feature live music by the Keith Winger Band from 1-5 p.m. under the tent. There will also be opportunities to meet the Vikings Cheerleaders and have a photo taken with them.
Registration costs $25 per motorcycle plus an extra donation for passengers. Proceeds go to area service members and their families to help them recover from hardship imposed by extended tours of duty.
"We've been blessed with decent weather most years," said Donaghue, who rides a 2000 Harley-Davidson Road King and is a member of the Patriot Guard.
"I run as many mission as I can for the young soldiers," he said.
Bruce Wold said when the organizers were working out the logistics for Bemidji's first Ride for the Troops, they contacted MarketPlace, where he works, and asked to use the parking lot because the business has plenty of room and the facilities for cooking.
Many businesses have donated prizes and individuals have made additional contributions. Anyone wishing to donate can send contributions to R.P. Broadcasting, 2115 Washington Ave. S.E., Bemidji, MN 56601.
For more information, go to the website rideforthetroops.com.