By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
A record amount of people attended the 24th Blessing of the Bikes on Sunday afternoon in Fulton’s downtown.
A total of 288 motorcycles were lined up along Fourth Street at 1 p.m. for the blessing. Two blocks were filled with bikes parked on each side of the street, as well as on the center yellow line. Father Arley Downie, 82, marveled during his prayer that this event began with four people in his daughter’s driveway and has grown into this. He wished that God would keep each one of the participants safe during the year.
It started when organizer Juls Meiners and Bear Richardson wanted their bikes blessed for a safe riding season. Tim “Tramp” Richardson was 14 when the first blessing of the bike was held by Meiners and his father, who died a few years ago. He remembers riding on the back of his father’s bike to his first blessing. He rode that same motorcycle to the event this year.
A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education District 21 supports the blessing. District Coordinator Rich Petersen, who has attended quite a few of the blessings, said this event’s goal is to raise awareness and show what ABATE is about. He said group focuses on fundraising and helping children.
“We do have big hearts,” he said.
This year, ABATE teamed with the Fulton Kiwanis Club to collect non-perishable food and money for area food pantries. Roller derby participants also skated around collecting for a 50/50 raffle.
Barb Suehl-Janis, from the Kiwanis Club, was thrilled that Meiners contacted them about the collection. Jon and Vickie Lockhart, from the club, estimated $200 to $300 was collected. Those wanting to donate may contact Meiners at (563) 249-5681. She wanted to thank all of the businesses and individuals, as well as the city of Fulton, for supporting the blessing.
This was the Lockharts first year at the blessing. They were impressed that Downie moved from each bike, blessing all of them. Downie travels to Fulton each year from Farmington, N.M.
“He blesses just about everyone,” Meiners said. Downie will even bless people on skates and bicycles.
“We have everyone with wheels,” Meiners said.
Ray Stage has only missed three of the 24 years. His 13-year-old grandson has come with him since he was 2. His grandson brings a different vehicle each year.
Kevin Draminski drove from Geneseo, Ill., to participate in the event for the first time. Friends encouraged him to come. He said the event had a good turnout, a nice day and good people.
It was also Gary VanKampen’s first time at the blessing.
“It’s just something new and I wanted to join in,”VanKampen said.