FULTON, Ill. — A few rain showers didn’t dampen the spirits of those who turned out in Fulton,, Ill., for the 17th Annual Blessing of the Bikes on Sunday afternoon.

While many bikers braved the downpour to attend the event, the darkened skies cleared out just in time for the last riders to arrive and the blessing to take place.

Father Arley Downie, a retired Catholic priest of the Diocese of Gallup, drove all the way from Farmington, N.M., to officiate the blessing. Downie has offered the blessing for 16 years.

Jules Meiners, Downie’s daughter, helps organize the event every year. The blessing began when Downie blessed the motorcycles of Meiners and her husband, Bear.

“We had a lot of friends that asked about it and said they’d like to have their bikes blessed,” Meiners said. “And it grew from there. It just got bigger and bigger every year.”

More than 100 bikes from miles around filled Fourth Street in downtown Fulton for the blessing. The street was filled with Harley-Davidsons, custom bikes, choppers, trikes, motorcycles with sidecars, even a couple bicycles.

Larry “Houser” Housenga rode his custom, steel-fabricated trike to the blessing. The 15-year-old trike has a four-cylinder Volkswagen engine and a Harley-Davidson front end.

“It’s a lot of fun to ride, very comfortable,” Housenga said. “You don’t see them too often on the road. This one is one of a kind.”

The trike was built by D.H., known as “The Stainless Steel Dog,” who friends said was home on the porch licking his wounds.

Housenga said his other two motorcycles have been blessed

“I thought this one needs to,” said Housenga. “It wouldn’t hurt all the bikes on the road.”

After a group prayer, the motorcyclists stood by their bikes as Downie made his way down the street. Downie blessed each bike one by one and its riders, asking God to make their travels safe. Following the blessing of each bike, Downie offered special blessings on some in attendance, including the injured or infirmed and a newlywed couple.

Many in the crowd expressed their gratitude for Downie and the blessing, saying they are happy to have the opportunity to have their bikes blessed.

Meiners said the riders attend the event for many reasons.

“It’s a good reason to get together and go for a ride, for one thing. And it can’t hurt getting blessed.” she said. “May is Motorcycle Awareness Month, so we get everyone here and have their bikes blessed. They come to have a good, safe riding season.”

Wayne Schroeder, owner of The Outpost and a member of the ABATE District 21 Legislative Office, said riders from all over come to the event.

“For the weather, it was a good turnout,” he said.

Schroeder thanked the city of Fulton for closing the street for the blessing and said the annual event takes many people a lot of planning.

“Next year is already in the works,” Schroeder said.

The event was sponsored by ABATE, A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education, District 21.