Continuing a tradition: Nevada County Toy Run to be held Saturday
The Nevada County Toy Run, which this year has new organizers, will be held Saturday.
Participating motorcyclists will depart from the Eric Rood Administrative Center at noon, heading to the Nevada County Fairgrounds, where they will drop off toys for donation to families in need. Each family benefited by the event will also receive a full meal, according to organizer Eric Oliver.
Oliver said last week that the event — which has existed since 1991 — had approximately 1,800 participants at its peak, and last year, at a low point, saw between 400 and 500. Splitting these two figures, he estimated this year’s event could see between 1,200 and 1,800 motorcyclists.
As a “rain or shine event,” the Nevada County Toy Run will go on regardless of the weather Saturday, said Oliver, although it will likely see a decline in bikers if it rains.
“I’m really expecting a good turnout, and I really hope so, because, without the bikers, there are no toys,” said Oliver. Event organizers have arranged to provide meals for the families, however, both by purchasing food and with donated side items from local nonprofits Interfaith Food Ministry and the Food Bank of Nevada County.
Chelci Buehler, also an organizer of this year’s event, said Monday that the number of families the event would serve was approaching 500, with approximately 1,000 children.
“Everything seems to be going pretty much as normal,” said Buehler of the upcoming event relative to previous years, noting that an exception will be this year’s route.
While the beginning and end points have stayed the same, this year’s route will have key differences from the one returning participants may be used to, according to Oliver.
After leaving the Eric Rood Administrative Center, according to Oliver, motorcyclists will proceed on the usual route down Broad Street, proceeding parade-style through shut-down intersections at Sacramento and Zion Streets, as well as Nevada City Highway and Brunswick Road.
This year, however, the route will skip downtown Grass Valley, instead turning onto Dorsey Drive and then merging onto the highway. In another change this year, said Oliver, Highway 49 will not have a section shut down by law enforcement officials, meaning motorcyclists will be expected to follow the rules of the road to drive safely during that portion of the route.
After taking the exit for McCourtney Road, said Oliver, participants will continue parade-style at the intersection at Alison Ranch and McCourtney roads, which will be closed by law enforcement officials, and reach their destination, the Nevada County Fairgrounds.
“It’s a compromise we had to make with law enforcement, because we came to them with such a short time window,” said Oliver on the changes, adding that local authorities have said additional qualified manpower can be found if organizers approach them with a plan earlier next year.
Among fire agencies assisting Saturday will be the Rough and Ready Volunteer Fire Department, said Oliver, adding that the Ophir Hill Fire Protection District and Peardale-Chicago Park Fire Protection District have each volunteered two vehicles and four men. Other local public agencies, including Grass Valley and Nevada City police, have also collaborated with organizers of the event, and according to Oliver, all involved met last week to plan their communication for Saturday.
As event participants have finished riding through each of the shut-down intersections with fire engines present, said Oliver, those fire engines will begin following behind them, adding to the sights and sounds for those watching the Nevada County Toy Run group as it passes by.
Oliver said participants will be asked not to throw candy toward spectators, as this could cause a safety issue if children were to run out onto the street. On safety precautions, he added that participants should come on street-legal bikes only, wear a helmet, and respect the rules of the road at any intersection that has not been closed.
PEOPLE STEPPING UP
“What’s awesome is people stepped up,” said Oliver.
As of last week, he said 62 sponsors had come on board, contributing to the event in a variety of ways, from individuals donating money to local businesses providing services, such as printing and graphic design.
When word got out earlier this year that the Nevada County Food and Toy Run’s founder, Thom Staser, would no longer be organizing it, this “put a fire under everybody,” said Oliver, who added that he has known Staser for many years.
Oliver said that Staser had jokingly asked him over the years when he would be taking over the event, but he ultimately decided to step up after hearing that it was canceled.
Soon afterward, Staser shared with Oliver an email list of people who had previously helped with the event, which helped him to contact the group — including Buehler, as well as her mother, Shannon Buehler — which would ultimately begin the process of planning a new Nevada County Toy Run.
The group was then able to connect with Denyse Cardoza with Head Start, who Oliver says has been instrumental in organizing the logistics of connecting the event’s donations to the families who will receive them.
As of Monday, according to Chelci Buehler, organizers were still hearing from people who were interested in volunteering. Buehler said the volunteers will be helping Saturday in areas such as walking families through to pick up food and toys, directing traffic, and selling T-shirts and pins.
“I have heard nothing but great things,” said Buehler of the community response to the upcoming event, adding that people from all different directions have expressed a desire to help.
‘SOMETHING THAT I WANTED TO CONTINUE’
Asked what drove her to get involved as an organizer, Buehler said that she can’t remember a single Christmas when she wasn’t either watching or volunteering at the Nevada County Food and Toy Run.
“And, between watching everyone ride through as the parade goes by (and) watching a family get Christmas presents or food that they wouldn’t have been able to have, that’s just something that I wanted to continue,” said Buehler.
The event, she said, is something that the community both needs and looks forward to.
Oliver said that it has been heartbreaking to hear the stories of hardship he has heard from the community, from families in need of help. He feels “blessed to be a part of the group that is providing that.”
Reflecting on what has stood out to him during the planning process, Oliver stated that some of the people who had in past years received food and toys from this event are, this year, among those who have donated to it.
“It really warms your heart to see that,” said Oliver.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
Jeff Duran teaches cribbage as an elective at Ready Springs Elementary and Saturday students competed in two divisions based on skill and experience.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.