Annual toy ride is still on, with pandemic backup plan in place

File Photo: The Valdosta Daily TimesMotorcyclists take part in the annual Outback Riders Toy Ride through the streets of Valdosta in December 2019.

LAKE PARK — A nearly three-decade-old Lowndes County Christmas tradition is on track to continue this year — and there’s a “Plan B” to back it up if the pandemic interferes.

The 28th Annual Outback Riders Toy Ride is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 19, said Rick Folsom, a member of the motorcycle group that organizes the ride.

Traditionally, bikers who donate an unwrapped toy get to ride in a mass motorcade from Lake Park up U.S. 41 to the Five Points Shopping Center in Valdosta, where the toys are donated to the Salvation Army to be distributed to children as part of the Empty Stocking Fund, sponsored by the Salvation Army, The Valdosta Daily Times and Guardian Bank.

This year, with concerns about COVID-19, changes have been made, Folsom said.

The Outback Riders’ usual meeting point in Lake Park declined to take part this year due to pandemic concerns, so the ride will start instead from the smaller venue of Cowboy’s Fire Pit Grill and Bar, he said.

In years past, as many as 1,500 riders have taken part, but a lesser turnout is expected this year due to the pandemic, Folsom said.

“The county and city approved our permits,” he said. “The mayor (of Valdosta) said he wanted the ride to go ahead.”

However, if the pandemic should force a cancellation of the ride, the Outback Riders plan to have a truck at Five Points that people can simply toss donated toys into without making contact, Folsom said.

Assuming the ride goes ahead, registration will start the Friday night before the ride at Mikki’s Bar on Northside Drive, he said.

Saturday morning, registration will be set up at Cowboy’s in Lake Park at 9 a.m., Folsom said. He asked all riders, and those donating toys without riding, to hold on to the toys until the end of the motorcade at Five Points.

The ride begins at 1:30 p.m. At the Five Points end, there will be door prizes and a “50-50” giveaway, with half of any cash raised going to a lucky winner and the other half being used to pay expenses for the ride next year, Folsom said.

Donated toys will be given to children in Lowndes and surrounding counties as part of the Empty Stocking Fund, he said.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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