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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

USA - 13th annual Ride for the Troops drew crowd

More than 900 bikers rode out of Darrough Chapel Park on April 26 for the 13th annual Ride for the Troops, a ride that event organizer Yacky Byers said has made quite a name for itself not only in Kokomo but also across the region.

“We’re all out here just to show support for the troops,” said Byers. “It’s not just for the ones who are in the sand pile right now; it’s for everyone who has ever been in the service.”

The ride takes bikers on a 75-mile route and gains bikers along the way. Byers estimated around 50 to 100 motorcycles joined the ride along the route.

“We’re saying we feel there was 1,000 bikes involved in it,” he said.

While it brought in more riders this year than last—which Byers attributed to the nice weather—it also brought countless spectators who waited for the bikers to come by, donning their American flags.

Byers said one of the neatest things he sees is three generations of families standing along the route to show their support.

“It amazes me how many little kids, small kids stand there and hold a flag. They’re impressed with the motorcycles, but they’re also holding a flag. It looks neat to me when a 6-, 7-, 8-year-old kid is standing there holding a flag. He may not know the whole scoop behind it, but he has a general idea that that’s the right thing to do,” he said. “That impresses me the most.”

Additionally, Byers said the parking lot behind Walmart gets lined with people in lawn chairs and in the backs of pickup trucks to watch the riders go by. This year was no exception.

“They sit out there for a couple hours, waiting for the ride to come by,” he said.

Byers said that’s a sight he never thought he’d see when the ride was started 13 years ago.

The ride got its start after Byers said the media was showing people protesting troops being overseas. Byers said he and a few others guys felt the news was negative and people “ought to see something positive.”
“There were about half a dozen of us who got our heads together and threw together a ride just to support the troops,” he said.

The first year brought in around 300 riders, and Byers said they never had trouble getting support from area police and fire departments.

“Kokomo’s fire department was the first one to put the flag up for us, and it grew big enough that more people got involved in a longer ride,” he said, adding that Tipton, Greentown, and Elwood also show their support every year.
Over the years, Byers said the ride has made a name for itself, and now it doesn’t take much to put it on, as everyone already expects it the last Sunday of every April.

“Basically we make a phone call, and it just falls into place,” he said. “We’ll have it until no one is deployed anywhere anymore. I don’t think that’ll ever happen.”

The biggest ride so far has drawn in around 2,000 riders, Byers said.

While this year’s event was a success, there was one incident where a bike went down, though Byers said his injuries were not life-threatening. It was the first accident the ride has seen it its history.

“He got slightly injured, but it doesn’t seem to be nothing life-threatening,” he said.

Byers said to look for the ride again next year—same time, same place, same route.

“We get great cooperation from the city and the county both. I think it’s something for Kokomo to brag about.

There’s no big overhead on it. Just show up on Sunday, and take a 75-mile ride,” he said.