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motorcyclists on a mission
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Shaila Creekmore

Later this month, more than 1,200 bikers will gather together for a three-day motorcycle event that includes the largest one-day poker run in the state of Arkansas, a bike show, a parade, three days of live music, a downtown full of vendors, a highly anticipated motorcycle giveaway and more. The best part? One-hundred percent of the profits from the new and improved eighth annual D.A.R.E. to Ride Motorcycle Classic benefit the Jonesboro Police Department’s well-respected Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

“Myself, along with most of today’s bikers, love to ride and support local charitable events,” said Gary Ward, the chairman of the 2012 D.A.R.E. to Ride Motorcycle Classic. “Individually, we may not be able to contribute a lot of money, but collectively, bikers raise thousands of dollars for good causes. The Jonesboro D.A.R.E. program is one of those great causes we love to support. Most of us have kids and grandkids, and we need programs such as D.A.R.E. for the betterment of our kids and the community.”

Ward, who is chairing the event for the second year in a row, has been hard at work with a committee that includes co-chairman Doug Formon, treasurer and registrations chair Kevin Foust, treasurer and activities director Greg Lawson, site coordinator Kevin Horton, secretary Karen Hollis, volunteer coordinator Ron Cole, web master and tickets sales coordinator Fred Wilson and entertainment director Bill Presley.

The committee and the event’s many volunteers are embracing the numerous changes for this year’s event, including taking over sole ownership of the event for the first time. The 2012 motorcycle classic, which has attracted more bikers, vendors and musicians than ever before, looks to have a successful second year since expanding into a three-day event.

The weekend will kick off on June 7 with a bike parade from Harley Davidson of Jonesboro to Downtown Jonesboro and will continue with the first of three nights of free live music shows and street vendors. The festival will wrap up on June 9 with a performance from “American Idol” contestant Lauren Gray.

During her performance, thanks to Harley Davidson of Jonesboro General Manager Fred Wilson, a new Harley Davidson Ultra Classic, a full-dress touring bike that retails for $21,000, will go to one lucky winner of the event’s motorcycle raffle. Raffle tickets are $10 each and are available at Harley Davidson of Jonesboro, Skinny J’s, Godsey’s Grill and DNW, or by calling 243.9054.

“Bikers love to ride and support good causes, but we also love good food, fun and entertainment,” said Ward. “Music is a big draw to get bikers out to your event and will bring local non-bikers out, too. ... We have several bands this year with a variety of music. The street is open to all, so bring the family, enjoy free music and check out the thousands of bikes parked down Main Street.”
The event’s main attraction is the poker run, where more than 1,200 motorcyclists will gather at Central Baptist Church on June 9 for one of the largest one-day poker runs in the country.

“A bike poker run is played just like a five card poker hand, except bikes will ride to each stop, draw a poker card at each stop and, at the last stop, have their hand recorded,” explained Ward. “Once all bikes are in, the card reader will determine the best hand and the worst hand. ... The winning hand wins $1,000 and the low hand $250. It’s all about the ride, with a chance to win some cash.”

Organizers of the 130-mile poker run hope to increase participation this year to 1,500 and expect as many as 4,000 people to visit the downtown festivities before the weekend is over. They also hope to raise at least $30,000 to support Jonesboro’s D.A.R.E. program.

“It’s all about the kids,” said Ward.” It’s important to me for D.A.R.E. to be in our local schools and teach good decision-making skills to our kids to help them avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence. They are learning they can be anything they set their mind to, but it takes a clear mind.

“None of this would be possible without the help of our generous sponsors, Harley Davidson of Jonesboro, the Jonesboro A&P Commission, DNW, Godsey’s Grill, Skinny J’s and Jonesboro Radio Group.”

Formon, a sergeant with the Jonesboro Police Department who also serves as a D.A.R.E. instructor, appreciates how much the proceeds from the event can help Jonesboro’s youth.

“The event helps to provide one of the country’s best D.A.R.E. programs,” he said. “With the funding, we, the Jonesboro Police Department, can teach D.A.R.E. and other safety courses to (the) 1,500 students in the Jonesboro, Valley View, Nettleton and two private schools districts here in Jonesboro.”
One semester each year, Jonesboro’s fifth graders participate in the series of police officer-led classroom lessons that teach them how to resist peer pressure and live productive lives that are free of drugs and violence.

For more information about the 2012 D.A.R.E. to Ride Motorcycle Classic or to register for the poker run, visit daretoride.com, and for more information about the Jonesboro Police Department’s D.A.R.E. program, visit jonesborodare.com.