VALDOSTA — In a couple of weeks, a longtime Lowndes County Christmas tradition roars back.

On Dec. 18, the 29th Annual Toy Ride, sponsored by the Outback Riders motorcycle club, will send hundreds of bikers roaring up the road from Lake Park to Valdosta in the role of Santa’s helpers, bringing toys to children in need for the Empty Stocking Fund.

This year, the ride returns to its traditional starting point in the Roger Budd Lake Park Exit 5 Outlet Mall (formerly Lake Park Plaza). The ride ends at the Five Points Shopping Center.

Bikers wishing to take part in the ride can pre-register for free the night before, Dec. 17, at Mikki’s Bar on Northside Drive. The registration price: one unwrapped toy, said Rick Folsom, one of the ride’s organizers.

He said as many as 2,000 riders could show up, assuming the weather’s good. 

“We usually average around 1,500,” he said.

Anyone wanting to donate toys can bring them to Five Points, Folsom said.

“If they want to bring them to Lake Park (at the ride’s start), they can but we have limited capacity for hauling the toys up to Five Points,” he said.

All of the toys gathered will be given to the local Salvation Army for distribution to South Georgia families in need as part of the Empty Stocking Fund, sponsored by the Salvation Army, Guardian Bank and The Valdosta Daily Times.

Collection boxes for toys have been placed in businesses around town, he said. The boxes will have fliers for Outback Riders attached and should not be confused with boxes for the Marine Corps’ “Toys for Tots” campaign, Folsom said.

Along with door prizes, a “50-50” raffle will be held; tickets are being sold for $1, and one lucky winner will get half of the proceeds, with the other half paying expenses for the ride next year, he said.

Blessing of the bikes is scheduled 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18, leaving at 1:30 p.m. More information: Call (229) 460-2521 or (229) 561-7125.

Terry Richards is senior reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times.

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