Organizers of the Big Texas Toy Run Motorcycle Parade hope for two things Saturday.
“We hope everyone has had enough of cabin fever, and we’ll have good weather this weekend,” spokesman Nick Taddonio said.
Normally, Taddonio’s 1980 Harley-Davidson sport would be among the thousands of bikes that will turn Interstate 30 into Thunder Road, traveling from Fort Worth and Dallas to meet at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie.
But this year, he’s in charge of making sure that the toy run goes smoothly.
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All riders are asked to bring toys destined for intellectually or physically challenged children in Tarrant and Dallas counties — an effort coordinated by MHMR Tarrant County and Metrocare Services of Dallas, Taddonio said.
And they all expect a huge party when they meet.
“It’s hard to get an accurate accounting” of the number of motorcycles, Taddonio said. “I’ve heard outlandish estimates. But I’d say easily something like 5,000 bikes.”
Veteran toy run rider Gene Long thinks Taddonio’s estimate is a little light. His Harley was one of about 200 bikes at the first run in 1985, and he believes that the last few runs have had up to 8,000.
The phenomenal number of bikes has created a Christmas tradition in which participants and spectators fuel one another’s emotions, Taddonio said.
“It’s the parade, man,” Taddonio said. “They’re going down Highway 30, and people on both sides and the overpasses are waving at them. Some people, that’s their Christmas. They take the kids out to watch the bikes go by. I hear that story over and over.”
The number of bikes in the parade is far from the only change since the original, which started in Arlington and went through Fort Worth to Haltom City, Long said.
As the bikes multiplied, the destination had to change. And as the run’s reputation grew, more riders from every compass point and on a variety of models wanted in on the fun.
“This is the only toy run in the world that starts out 40 miles apart and comes together,” Long said.
The Tarrant County run starts at Gateway Park on Beach Street. Before that group leaves at 1 p.m. Saturday, it will be joined by upwards of 500 bikes that rally at Freedom Powersports Weatherford, 1811 Fort Worth Highway (U.S. 180).
Fort Worth police officers will escort the Tarrant County run and limit traffic in the two right lanes of I-30 to the motorcycles, police spokeswoman Tracey Knight said. All I-30 eastbound on-ramps and offramps between Beach Street and Belt Line Road will be closed during the run, Knight said.
The eastern leg takes off from the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas and travels west on Interstate 30.
And this year, a leg has been added devoted to Chevrolet Corvettes and other special cars. It begins in Irving at Gas Monkey Bar n Grill, 10261 Technology Blvd.
In the last few years, the variety of the bikes has changed, too, Long said.
“In the old days, it was 95 percent Harleys,” Long said. “Today there are a lot of three-wheelers, as many as one-fifth of the rides. And there are a lot of women riders.”
But the reason for the run will never change, Long said.
“It’s still a toy run for the children of Tarrant and Dallas counties,” Long said.
In a Lone Star Park banquet room, hosted by Santa Claus, there will be 20 kids representing the original children for whom toys were collected, Taddonio said.
“We’ll have them on closed-circuit feed on monitors all over Lone Star Park,” Taddonio said. “This is a rain-or-shine event. We don’t want anyone to do anything they don’t think is safe, but we’ll be at Lone Star Park collecting toys no matter what.”