The Valdosta Daily Times
Christmas Eve may belong to Santa Claus but, for the past 20 years, the third Saturday of December has belonged to the Outback Riders.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, the Outback Riders hope to again lead thousands of motorcycles from Lake Park to Valdosta, carrying thousands of Christmas toys for Lowndes County’s boys and girls in need.
The Outback Riders started the Toy Ride in 1993, when an estimated 50-60 motorcycles participated. By 1994, more than 200 bikers participated in the Toy Ride. In more recent years, with clear skies, the Toy Ride has attracted more than 2,000 motorcycles.
While the Outback Riders appreciate this level of involvement, Craig Pennington, a Toy Ride organizer, asks all participating riders to follow directions at the ride’s start point at the Lake Park Outlets and the concluding destination at Valdosta’s Five Points.
In recent years, organizers have experienced difficulty getting some participants to park where they have been instructed to start and finish. Ignoring the parking instructions makes it more difficult for the hundreds of bikes still arriving to enter the lots, Pennington says. “So please follow the guide of our volunteer workers and abide by their requests,” he says.
The ride also has a police escort.
Through the years, the Outback Riders Annual Toy Ride has become an instrumental part of the Empty Stocking Fund, which is sponsored by the Salvation Army, Guardian Bank and The Valdosta Daily Times.
Each year, Salvation Army personnel receive the bikers’ toys, inventories them, then distributes them as best they can to match the wish lists of 1,200 area children registered with the Empty Stocking Fund. This year, Pennington says, the Outback Riders plan to also offer a monetary donation to the Empty Stocking Fund.
The Toy Ride welcomes all motorcycles. All participants are asked to bring a new toy for a boy or a girl; often, some riders bring more than one toy. For the participants, there will be a 50/50 drawing and door prizes. The first 1,000 riders receive stickers.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, registration begins at 10 a.m., Lake Park Outlets; the blessing of the bikes will be at 1:15 p.m.; bikes leave at 1:30 p.m. Will roll rain or shine. The motorcycles travel to Valdosta and stop at Five Points. Pre-registration: 7 p.m. Dec. 14, Mikki’s on Northside Drive. More information: Call 561-7125.