Thunder at the River set for this weekend

Riders take off for the eighth annual Thunder at the River event last year. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Riders take off for the eighth annual Thunder at the River event last year. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Manistee County and the northern coastal region in Michigan offers unique views enjoyed by many, and for the ninth year in a row, the annual “Thunder at the River” event will invite hundreds of bikers to ride a scenic route.

The Rolling Thunder Michigan Chapter 1 will hold its Thunder at the River event on Friday and Saturday, at the Little River Casino Resort, highlighted by Saturday’s Pure Thunder Escorted Veterans Memorial Ride.

John Stocki, event organizer, said funds raised from the event will benefit various veterans organizations both locally and statewide.

“This is our chapter’s yearly biggest fundraiser,” Stocki said. “Over the past eight years, we have donated over $82,000 to help our veterans here in the State of Michigan. We are all volunteers.”

Starting on Friday, the Michigan Vietnam Memorial Wall and the Michigan Middle Eastern Conflict Wall will be in Manistee.

The U.S. Coast Guard flies over head, sending off the bikers for the annual Thunder at the River event. This year, another send off will take place. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

The U.S. Coast Guard flies over head, sending off the bikers for the annual Thunder at the River event. This year, another send off will take place. (Ashlyn Korienek/News Advocate)

Manistee, and for the first time ever, Stocki said there will be two walls.

An escort of the walls, a yearly tradition, will take place at 3 p.m. from the Manistee VFW Walsh Post No. 4499 to the casino, located at 2700 Orchard Highway in Manistee, where the walls will be on display for two days.

Anyone is welcome to ride during the escort; the public is also welcome to line U.S. 31, holding flags when the walls pass through town.

“It’s open to the public, if anybody would like to attend,” Stocki said. “We encourage them to come on out in support.”

Registration for the memorial ride on Saturday starts around 9 a.m., and the motorcyclists will take off at noon. Stocki said last year the event saw more than 300 bikers.

Before taking off, each bike will be blessed and cleansed for a safe journey.

“We have about 150 pre-registered riders right now, but a lot of people come out the day of, because they do not want to register until they know what the weather is,” he said. “Registration is open until 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.”

A new route is planned this year, starting at the casino heading on M-22 to Frankfort, around Crystal Lake to Beulah and then back to the casino, mostly on the back roads. This is typically about a three hour ride.

This year, a stop will be made at the new Veteran’s Memorial in Benzonia, where bikers can grab snacks and water for the rest of trip. Attendees are also invited to ride along in any type of vehicle.

“We change it up every year,” said Stocki. “The ride is open to the public, even if they want to come ride in a Jeep or whatever they would like to.”

The casino will have assorted vendors; an honors exhibit tent with a Vietnam prisoner of war cage; Rolling Thunder products; music; a food tent serving Big Don’s famous barbecue pulled pork, hot dogs and brats; and a concert on Saturday night at the casino featuring the Eli Young Band.

A silent auction tent will also be available. Stocki expects more vendors this year, with biker gear and many other goods for participants or visitors to pick up.

“This is our way of giving back,” he said. “We would like to thank everybody who has come out in the past.”

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Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

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