Helping the community, two wheels at a time
Okay, so fall is really here, winter isn’t far away and that means the holidays are a’comin’. There’s a lot to do in the foothills during the holiday season and one of the best events to watch or participate in is the Nevada County Food and Toy Run.
The toy run is always held on the second Saturday of December, rain or shine, founder Thom Staser said. This year’s ride is scheduled on December 9th, the 15th consecutive year for this annual event, which grew from a few area bikers wanting to help those less fortunate into a huge ride bringing together motorcyclists from Oregon, Nevada, California and beyond. “We are the safest and longest continuous toy run in Northern California,” Staser said.
Riders begin to gather in the parking lot of the Eric Rood Center in Nevada City well before the noon starting time. People who want to give to this worthy cause but can’t ride with all those motorcycles can bring donations to the government center until noon. Raffle tickets are also sold until just before the start of the run, when the winning numbers are chosen. Those numbers are transmitted to the fairgrounds, where they are posted on a board for all to see when they arrive at that destination.
Many members of law enforcement, both local and distant, actually ride in this toy run. They include the Blue Angels (a group of retired law enforcement officers) and a motorcycle squad from the North Sacramento Police Department. Perhaps it’s the donuts and coffee Staser serves to early birds at the Rood Center before the run that attracts so many officers Ð “It’s what gets me up in the morning!” quipped Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster.
And although they don’t ride in the procession (yet), Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal and Chief Foster can be found at the Rood Center before noon on run day and Foster has been seen directing traffic in his city during the event. Even Nevada City Police Chief Lou Travato gets into the act, often directing traffic on Broad Street as the bikes head through that city.
Nevada County’s Food and Toy Run is also very popular with local government officials, many of whom take part in the event. Nevada County Supervisors Sue Horne, Robin Sutherland and John Spencer have all participated, as have Grass Valley’s outgoing Mayor Gerard Tassone, former Nevada City Mayor Conley Weaver, outgoing Grass Valley Councilmember Patti Ingram and a number of city and county employees.
Staser always rides at the head of the line, which last year numbered over 1,800 motorcycles. Sue Horne has been his passenger the last seven years and the two arrive at Gate 4 at the fairgrounds first, to begin counting all those bikes. Staser said so many people participated last year that they had already started counting long before the last bike had left the Rood Center!
The entire ride takes about 45 minutes to complete, start to finish, and winds through the streets of Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County, Staser said. Police officers block intersections and direct traffic around the route, which is quite a sight to see. City streets become the best place to watch the run, with people waving and shouting greetings to the riders and their passengers, who enthusiastically wave back, Staser said.
Once at the fairgrounds, participants dismount and wait for the children to appear and get their toys. Staser said it can get quite emotional, with big, burly bikers crying right alongside cops and mayors, as kids who wouldn’t otherwise have a memorable holiday pick out toys from the pile of gifts. Families also receive food, including turkeys or hams, a bag of potatoes and canned goods.
There is another way to help support the Food and Toy Run this year. Susan Sotelo has organized the first-ever Spaghetti Feed this Saturday night, from 5-8pm, at the Nevada City Elks Lodge. Tickets are $15 per person and include salad, bread, dessert and spaghetti, prepared by Darryl Souza. There’s also a raffle and long-sleeved 2006 Toy Run t-shirts will be available for $25 each; toy run pins are $10. Donations of all kinds are welcome and all proceeds go to the Nevada County Food and Toy Run, and, ultimately, the children of this community.
NASCAR update: The Nextel Cup race at the Texas Motor Speedway shook up the Chase for the Championship again, as Jimmie Johnson took over first place in the points battle. Matt Kenseth slipped to second and my boy, Dale Earnhardt Jr., is now in third. Tony Stewart won the Texas race Ð that’s two in a row for Smoke. The next race is at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona; the last race of the season is at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
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With under a week before fall starts, Grass Valley is experiencing much cooler weather, the National Weather Service said.