HARRISON – The inaugural Veterans Freedom Ride took place in July of 2018, with the goal of raising funds for the purchase of a statue for Veteran’s Freedom Park in Harrison; that year, the ride included dedication of the Korean War statue. The fundraising this year is for a Desert Storm statue, estimated to cost between $30,000 and $35,000.
The park serves as a memorial for veterans of a four-county area, including Clare, Gladwin, Isabella and Midland. As such, the first Freedom Ride route wended its way through all four counties, touching base with local service organizations along the way. This year, the recent flooding which has taxed the reserves of municipalities and residents alike, has led Freedom Ride organizers to plot a limited course through Clare County only. The route is estimated at roughly 60 miles.
The ride, which will take place July 25 (rain or shine), will begin with registration from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at Trail’s End Restaurant and Pizzeria in Harrison, and after coffee and doughnuts, participants will be sent along to local restaurants for breakfast. Lineup will be at the Clare County Fairgrounds (bikers in the lead), with the entourage to depart the fairgrounds at 11 a.m. on a route that will take them through Harrison; down Old 27 to Clare, where they will loop through the city to ensure inclusion of as many businesses and onlookers as possible; on to Farwell where the group will have lunch at the Farwell American Legion; travel through Lake George; and finally arriving at Trail’s End Pub in Leota. There, participants will enjoy an afterglow evening of games, raffles and a cornhole tournament with cash prize. Also available is a 50/50 raffle, a Card drawing board, a Lottery ticket board, a small silent auction, and likely more. It seems there is always more.
Organizer Maye Tessner-Rood said the 2018 Freedom Ride had 80 participants – some of whom dropped out in the face of near-torrential rain. Anticipating more moderate weather this time around, she said a much larger turnout is expected and that motorcycles, Jeeps and any road-worthy vehicles are welcome. She also said it is hoped that politicians may wish to participate, as they will be missing out on the traditional July 4 parade opportunities to get out among the voters.
With the current pandemic restrictions, Tessner-Rood has not gone out to request donations of auction/prize items from businesses as in the past. Yet, despite the change in effort, people have called to learn how they can contribute and have dropped off items for baskets and a silent auction. Tessner-Rood said she believes people are tired of being cooped up and really want to get out to do something they believe is not only fun, but will combat some of the negative things that seem to be happening everywhere.
“People want to do something,” she said. “They’re tired of the negativity.”
Tessner-Rood said she had sent out a challenge to service organizations and elected officials in all four counties to come out to Veterans Freedom Park at 7 a.m. Saturday, June 27 to donate two hours of their time to help get it in shape for Independence Day.
She also emphasized what a good deal this year’s event is for participants: the $25 registration includes the ride, lunch and a kickstand plate. Additionally, those who pre-register by July 19 also will receive an event T-shirt which lists for $25 – a deal by any standard.
“We’re honoring first responders, essential workers,” Tessner-Rood said. “Let’s show our pride in America for not just our veterans, but all those who have gotten us through all these crises.”
“It’s a great hat, the hat looks really nice,” Tessner-Rood said. “And it’s all on the website; you can register then shop in the store if you want to. Then we get money from those sales, too.”
Information will be available at registration regarding guidelines for compliance with physical distancing/face coverings to help ensure the safety of participants, to include: “Mask preferred, and social distancing.”