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Bikers hit the road for Father Fred

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:39 AM

Not just any bike: a big, tough motorcycle. And not just any ride, either: a cruise amid a pack of hundreds united in a common cause.

Plane plans to once again join The Ride for Father Fred, a police-escorted processional that thunders up Old Mission Peninsula. This weekend's event marks the 20th annual ride, and Plane remembers the first one and the many he later shared with Father Fred.

The priest, who died in 2000, launched the local Father Fred Foundation, which benefits from the ride and related weekend events.

"When he was on the back, I think he enjoyed it very much," said Plane, 66. "He would talk constantly. I was getting an earful, but I was learning so much about him."

Plane has participated in many of the benefit rides, about six of which found Father Fred seated in that prime position behind him as they led the roaring herd.

The Northern Chapter Harley Owners Group organizes the annual motorcycle event. It began Saturday with a poker run that takes riders through the three-county area. A motorcycle show ran along Union Street in Traverse City.

The ride begins at 11 a.m. today (Sunday) at Classic Motor Sports off U.S. 31 and runs along Center Road to Old Mission Peninsula's tip. Participants pay $20 to register for one or both days. The ride is open to all motorcyclists who ride any kind of bike.

The route takes motorcyclists past St. Joseph Catholic Church, where Father Fred once served.

It's a special occasion for onlookers, too, said Beth Denoyer, who will ride Sunday as a passenger on her husband's bike.

"To me, the most moving thing is when we're riding along in that group is the people that line up along the sides of the road, and they get out and wave," she said.

Spectators flap American flags. They stake out spots with pickup trucks along the route and snap pictures as the pack motors past.

Denoyer is one of the planners who began to organize this year's event in February, securing permits and coordinating countless details. The event has raised about $200,000 for the foundation since its start. Donations stemming from the ride range between $15,000 and $20,000 a year, said the foundation's executive director, Martie Manty.

This year's event will pay for back-to-school supplies such as backpacks, funds for shoes and school items, Manty said.

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