RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A celebrated motorcycle ride through Riverside and surrounding locations intended to honor members of the U.S. Armed Services returned Monday for a Memorial Day salute that went on hiatus for three years, beginning with the COVID public health lockdowns.
West Coast Thunder began at 9 a.m. Riverside Harley-Davidson hosted the event, which began in 2000 when the dealership belonged to Skip Fordyce and operated under that banner.
More than 75,000 motorcycle enthusiasts were expected to take part in Monday’s ride, according to event coordinator Jackson Dodd.
“A lot of the riders are excited to be back,” Dodd told City News Service. “Everyone has expressed positive feelings. We missed not doing it those three years.”
The 2020 ride was nixed due to Riverside County’s and the state’s COVID-driven prohibitions on mass public gatherings, and ongoing concerns about exposure risks led to cancellations in 2021 and 2022.
This year’s event occurred at Riverside Harley-Davidson on Indiana Avenue, with motorcyclists bearing American flags leaving the dealership at 9:11 a.m. and proceeding up Alessandro Boulevard to south Riverside, transitioning to Van Buren Boulevard, where some participants peeled off to Riverside National Cemetery to pay their respects, while other riders continued onto Intersection 215.
The ride ran southbound on I-215 into Murrieta, then swung northbound onto I-15, ending at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore. A car show and concert were held at the stadium, with scheduled performances from Michael Austin, Nick Flores, the West Coast Thunder Color Guard and headliners DSB — the self- described “World’s Greatest Journey Tribute Band.”
Dodd said the natural gas explosion at the stadium on May 19 would not impact the West Coast Thunder program because the damage was to a building under construction, not the facilities used by the WCT crowd.
A large share of proceeds raised from the riders and musical shows are donated to the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee, which relies on contributions to build monuments and make other improvements at the hallowed grounds, where more than 250,000 U.S. military veterans, police officers, firefighters and others are buried.
More than $1 million has been generated over the past two decades, and even when the rides weren’t held, the WCT Foundation held donation drives to support the cemetery, with $250,000 going to the American Indian Veterans Memorial in 2021.
The event concluded around 2 p.m. Monday, with the roads cleared in Riverside and surrounding areas, according to Riverside police.
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