Local News

Sunday, Dec 08 2013 06:40 PM

30th annual Toy Run attracts rebels with a cause

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    Thousands of riders make their way out of Beach Park during the 30th annual Toy Run Sunday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    Santa, also known as Scott O'Neil, walks past others who are ready to roll Sunday in the 30th annual Toy Run starting at Beach Park in Bakersfield.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Dawn Hickey and her twin sons Bryson, center, and Luke, get a great view of the Toy Run from the top of a Hummer on 21st Street as the motorcyclists ride past them Sunday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    ATV riders get in the spirit of the 30th annual Toy Run Sunday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    Gifts, big and small, are strapped to motorcycles during the annual Toy Run Sunday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    Thousands of Toy Run participants roll out Sunday morning from Bakersfield's Beach Park for the annual event to raise Christmas toys and food.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    Motorcycle riders play around as they prepare to leave Beach Park in Bakersfield on the annual Toy Run Sunday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios/ The Californian

    The 30th annual Toy Run starts rolling out of Beach Park in Bakersfield Sunday morning with toys strapped on and motorcycles decorated. The toys will be collected and given to children in need of a Christmas gift.

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

It was cold Sunday morning for the 30th annual Bakersfield Toy Run. Of course it was loud, with as many as 5,000 motorcycles, carts, ATVs and cars revving their engines at Beach Park like a choir practicing scales.

And like previous versions of what has become the state's largest toy run, it was wonderfully successful.

Coordinators estimated 3,000 toys were collected, along with more than a ton of canned food and at least $30,000 in cash that will be used to buy more gifts and foods for Kern County families who would otherwise have a tough time celebrating Christmas.

"There are always families that need help at Christmas," said Don Oldaker, president of Bakersfield Toy Run Inc., the nonprofit that works with the Salvation Army each year to organize the parade.

"There's always kids that if not for the Salvation Army and these (riders), their parents would have a hard time making Christmas."

Families signed up months ago to receive gifts and foods. Later this month, heads of an estimated 900 families will gather at the Kern County fairgrounds and receive the gifts, food and gift wrapping paper from the Salvation Army. Each child receives at least two gifts.

Oldaker said the wrapping paper allows parents to wrap the gifts themselves.

"The kids believe Mom and Dad were able to pull this out," he said. "This allows them to do what a family should be able to do for Christmas."

Participants began arriving at Beach Park about 7 a.m., although the bulk waited for temperatures to rise closer to the 10 a.m. start of the parade.

While Harley-Davidsons were the predominant bike, plenty other styles added to the exhaust fog, including BMW, Victory, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, three-wheelers, Vespa, dirt bikes and at least one motorized bicycle.

People dressed as elves, wore football jerseys, Halloween masks and antlers, and decorated their bikes with tinsel, flags and small Christmas trees.

Gifts were strapped to the back of bikes, stuffed into sidecars or balanced on front fenders.

It took 15 minutes for all the motorcycles to empty out of the park, followed by ATVs, golf carts and go karts, then classic cars and anyone else. The procession wound its way at between 25 mph and 30 mph down 21st Street to Chester Avenue and Belle Terrace Avenue until following P Street to the fairgrounds.

There, toys were collected and participants paid $20 each to enjoy food catered by Mossman's Coffee Shops and Catering Company, cold beverages, two bands -- The Really Big Midgets and 1916 -- plus light shopping for T-shirts and pins.

It's a long way from the first Toy Run in December 1983, when co-founders James and Deborah Harmon and Robert "Sleepy" Laurin assembled 50 bikers and collected 75 gifts. The Harmons died in a 2009 motorcycle accident.

Laurin remembered Sunday that the American Legion then on F Street hosted an after party that helped raise money to make the first donation to the Salvation Army.

He claimed to not remember many details from past Toy Runs, but as he surveyed the thousands of participants Sunday, Laurin recognized that the continued success rests solely with everyone who showed up.

"I'm just thankful for everybody who made it out despite the cold," he said.

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