Even Santa Claus has been forced to change his travel plans due to the downtown revitalization project in Trail.
The West Kootenay Toy Run Association is gearing up for its 26th annual trek this weekend where bikers from all over the region ride together in the name of charity with St. Nick, who trades in his sleigh and reindeer for a Harley and horsepower once a year, leading the way.
The ride, which attracts over 500 motorcycles, will follow its usual route from Castlegar, through Nelson, Salmo and Fruitvale before a slight detour in Trail.
Rather than parking in front of Ferraro Foods, the riders will pull into the Cominco parking lot to avoid loose gravel and then take the back alley (past Frosty’s Liquor Store) to continue through to Rossland, where Golden City Days will be underway.
Participants will stop into the Legion and Eagles, where more toys will be gathered, before heading back to Castlegar for 3:30 p.m. to relax and enjoy live music and dinner capped off by a the draws for two new Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Beyond a police presence, Tellier said the association organizes its own road blocks at various stops along the way.
First held in 1988 with 15 local riders, the West Kootenay Toy Run now features over 500 participants who move across West Kootenay communities, collecting toys or funds for children.
“It’s for the kids but after any event you attend year after year, you form relationships with people,” said association vice president Geoff Tellier. “One thing is we all have a motorcycle and a heart for our communities.”
Riders are to bring a clean toy to donate or $10 to take part in the group ride Sunday. The goods are divided and donated to the Salvation Army in Trail, Castlegar and Nelson for their Christmas hampers. But the fundraising doesn’t stop there.
The association gives back about $30,000 annually. It supports food banks and other local causes by raising money through raffles and also gives out five $1,000 scholarships a year to graduating students going onto to post secondary education.
Sunday’s ride rolls out after an 8 a.m. pancake breakfast by the Lion’s Club at the Castlegar Recreation Complex, where registration will also take place.
Before the riders hits the highway, organizers talk to participants about consciously staggering and handling speed. Challenges include knowing who the new riders are and educating them on how to approach the group ride.
At 10 a.m., Santa is set to escort the riders and their buffed shiny bikes through downtown Castlegar, followed by a 30-minute trip to Nelson, where there is a short stop to pick up toys collected by Hippersons Hardware Company. At noon, the motorcycles stop in Salmo for a lunch put on by firefighters at the local fire hall before they head through Fruitvale and onto Trail to collect more toys from Wolf’s Den Tattoo.
The riders will then follow the altered route through Trail and continue on to the final destination.
For more information, visit wktra.ca