In 1982, a group of motorcycle riding friends from Bakersfield, CA set off one early morning to participate in the Modified Motorcycle Association's toy run in Los Angeles. It was wall to wall motorcycles that day at Griffith Park, so much so, it took nearly three hours to empty LA's famous observation point.
Sleepy Laurin and Jim Harmon attended the toy run and that evening back in Bakersfield the two discussed the day and Harmon wondered why they couldn't pull off a similar event for their town. The first Bakersfield Toy Run was born and attended by about 50 riders the following December.
On Sunday, the 30th annual Bakersfield Toy Run opens the Christmas season with nearly 6,000 motorcyclists, and weather cooperating, as many as 7,000, joining a ride that benefits the Salvation Army of Kern County. In the last three years, the toy run has averaged about 3,000 toys, more than a ton of food and $30,000 in cash.
"Every year is different, but the Toy Run is all about doing something for the families that need help," said Don Oldaker, ride spokesman. "We are just grateful to those who turn out in the early morning cold and make this event what it has become."
The ride is short, about five miles to the fairgrounds, is police escorted and is actually a permitted parade so helmets are not required and off-roaders can participate. Dirt bikers, ATVs and even classic car enthusiasts join the run to see who can stuff the most Christmas into their ride as possible.
"Where else can you find Harleys and Hayabusas, BMWs and KTMs, Boss Hogs and Vespas, Goldwings, bobbers and $75,000 customs all riding side by side for a single cause?" Oldaker said. "Bakersfield has a great motorcycling community. People who ride look forward to the second Sunday in December as kind of a kickoff for their own Christmas season."
The Bakersfield Toy Run starts at 10 a.m. Sunday at Beach Park, 3400 21st St. in Bakersfield, CA. Entry fee is one new unwrapped toy and one canned food item equal to $20 or pay $20 per person.
"With a push of 6,000 starter buttons 6,000 engines roar to life, wake the neighbors and run the birds and squirrels out of Beach Park. Kids smile, dogs bark, older people wave, and the riders and passengers feel like the king of the world for about 30 minutes knowing they're selflessly doing a great thing for someone who really needs and deserves it," Oldaker said.
Other Rides Scheduled This Weekend
ABATE Toy Run December 7: The Southeast Portland Abate Chapter hosts a toy run benefitting the Portland Shriners Hospital for Children. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and the ride to the hospital starts at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at the Fred Meyer Corporate Parking lot, 3800 SE 22nd Ave. in Portland, OR.
Savannah Toy Run December 7: This 23th annual run is presented by ABATE of Georgia and benefits The Magdalene House. Sign in between 9 and 10:30 a.m., kickstands up at 11 a.m. Saturday at Savannah Harley-Davidson, 6 Gateway Boulevard West in Savannah, GA.
Lewisville Toy Run December 7: The 15th annual City of Lewisville Toy Run starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at American Eagle Harley-Davidson, 5920 S. Interstate 35 E in Corinth, TX. Pre-register or in person at 8 a.m. day of the ride.
32nd Annual Toy Parade December 8: The Sun Riders Motorcycle Club host their 32nd annual Toy Parade at 12 p.m. Sunday at Freedom Park, 5000 29th St in Tucson, AZ. Registration is from 8 to 11:30 a.m.
Vets' Christmas Charity Ride December 8: The Vets' Christmas Charity Ride was founded to deliver Christmas cheer to the Dorn VA Hospital and two VA homeless shelters. The 13 th annual ride starts at 2 p.m. Sunday at Carolina Honda, 901 Buckner Road in Columbia, SC.
Toys for Tots Toy Run December 8: Lineup for the 29th annual USMC Reserve Toys for Tots Toy Run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Rodney's Cycle House, 9110 Interstate 30 in Little Rock, AR. Kickstands up at 2 p.m.
Childhelp Toy Run December 8: ABATE of Virginia hosts their 9th annual Childhelp Toy Run that benefits the Alice C. Tyler Village of Childhelp. Registration is from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and the police escorted ride starts at 12 p.m. Sunday at Renegade Classics, 30 Walsh Lane in Fredericksburg, VA.