22nd Toy Run rolls to successful ending
An 81-year old Korean War Veteran, a rider from California, and numerous children of all ages brought Christmas cheer and good will to Haywood County on Saturday, Nov. 16, as the 22nd Annual Haywood County Motorcycle Parade and Toy rolled out of Canton at high noon.
A total of 950 bikes enjoyed a ride under Haywood County law enforcement and fire department protection as the parade snaked its way through Canton and Clyde before a run up the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway to the West Waynesville exit.
Riders then proceeded down Main Street through Waynesville enjoying the waves and, at times, curious looks of downtown shoppers. The roughly 40-minute ride pulled into the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie for the 12th year in a row where they were treated to excellent barbecue and fixings prepared by Dicky King and his Kookin’ Krewe. Local DJ Keith Howell entertained the group with music and his personality as folks chowed down on the 500 pounds of pork that had been prepared for participants.
Parade organizers report feeding some 1,400 people at the museum while numerous door prizes and raffles were distributed to the assembled guests. A truckload of toys was donated by the bikers and approximately $9,000 in cash was donated to go toward making a Merry Christmas for the children of Haywood County. Toys and cash will be distributed through a cooperative effort of Haywood County Department of Social Services, Haywood Christian Ministries, and the Salvation Army.
Wheels Through Time Museum Curator Dale Walksler, and newly elected Maggie Alderman Mike Eveland welcomed the bikers to Maggie and the museum.
Eveland presented parade organizers with checks for $1,000 representing donations made during a pre-ride breakfast at Rendevouz in Maggie Valley. Numerous business and corporate sponsors further supported the event by having their names listed on the annual Toy Run T-shirt making it possible for 100 percent of the shirt sales to go toward helping children have a Merry Christmas.
“We are extremely happy to see the ongoing support of the community in our effort," said parade co-coordinator Kathy Yount. "It is incredibly heartwarming to see all these folks helping children. In addition to the many bikers that come out, we are so thankful for other folks, who just drop by and make donations or bring us toys to give to the children.”
As an example, Yount showed off a large bag of stuffed teddy bears donated by Polly’s Florist in Canton.
Chuck Way, another co-coordinator of the event, pointed out the efforts made by local law enforcement and fire departments to make the event safe for both motorcyclists and the motoring public.
“In grand Haywood Country tradition, all of the departments were quick to work together and coordinate the coverage of the route including shutting down major intersections and Expressway ramps as the bikers progressed through the municipalities.”
Organizers said the parade has grown through the years with much non-biker assistance helping the event run smoothly.
Staff members from Smoky Mountain Center, Evergreen Corporation, local citizens and members of Waynesville Rotary have all become integral partners in making this such a great success.
The Haywood County event has become a staple of the Haywood County landscape on the second Saturday before Thanksgiving each year. The parade was first organized in 1992 and started at the former Dixon’s Little Boy in Canton with 63 bikes parading toward their eventual end at Bogart’s in Waynesville. In that inaugural effort, a pickup truck load of toys was raised along with $300 in cash.
From those modest beginnings, the parade has grown, on occasion, to record levels of near 1,500 bikes and has now raised in aggregate a total of $150,000 cash plus an untold number of toys.