Thousands of South Sound motorcyclists throttled their "hogs" from Lacey to Olympia on Saturday afternoon as part of a city toy drive to benefit The Salvation Army.
The Olympia Toy Run, in its 32nd year, starts at South Sound Center in Lacey and ends at Marathon Park at Capitol Lake. Waiting for the motorcyclists there was a 26-foot U-Haul that Salvation Army volunteers expected to fill with toys.
Last year’s event generated 8,000 to 10,000 toys, and as many toys were expected this year, volunteer Debbie Ingram said. Financial donations also were accepted, she said.
Leading the pack of motorcycles and dressed as Santa Claus as usual was Toy Run coordinator Joe Sullivan. For the second consecutive year, he expected about 10,000 motorcyclists to participate in the event because of the good weather.
Once again, the shopping center was transformed into a sea of motorcycles – many of them Harley-Davidsons – and black riding leathers. Some riders wore Santa Claus suits and hats, and many strapped their toys to the backs of their bikes.
Pat McNeil, 57, of Olympia, who also dressed as Santa, was busy waving at all the passing traffic on Sleater-Kinney Road before the Toy Run started. He rode his Honda Goldwing to the event, which pulled a trailer with reindeer and a sleigh full of toys.
Riding with McNeil on Saturday was Betty King, 73, who dressed as an elf and wore her black motorcyle jacket. A patch on the jacket said, “EZ Rider Betty.” King said she usually rides with her son, but this year she joined Pat. She enjoys the event for its fun and camaraderie.
“You never get too old for it,” she said.
Longtime participant Nick Danyluk, who turned 69 on Saturday, praised the Toy Run, saying it’s for a good cause and gives him a chance to clean up his 2007 Harley-Davidson and go for a ride in December.
Seth Bowles of Olympia joined the Toy Run for the first time, he said. Joining him were his son William and daughter Brittany. In addition to the toy and wreath strapped to his Suzuki, he proudly displayed his love of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, wearing a Steelers stocking cap and sweat shirt, as well as a motorcycle helmet with a Steelers decal.
“I’m nothing but a big kid at heart,” Bowles said.
Besides the toys and costumes, motorcycles were on display. Although Harley-Davidson was well-represented, there also was a Royal Enfield, a Kawasaki dirt bike with a sidecar, and a 1953 BSA owned by Bob Berglund of Olympia.
Berglund, who bought the BSA two months ago, said the Toy Run provided the perfect opportunity to take the bike out on its inaugural trip.
“It gives me an excuse to ride in December,” he said.
The toys and money raised by the Toy Run are donated to The Salvation Army for distribution to needy children through its Toy ’n’ Joy Shop, according to the Olympia Toy Run Web site.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403