With a mighty roar and revving engines, the seventh annual Sedalia Firefighters’ Local 103 Memorial Ride took off Saturday from Liberty Park with approximately 150 bikes and 200 participants.
Sedalia Fire Department Capt. Greg Smith, coordinator of the event, said this year’s ride could be the largest yet.
“We had 120 people pre-register, which is higher than what we’ve had in the past,” he said. “This morning we typically have a lot of people walk up … so we’ve taken a lot of other registrations that didn’t pre-register.
“We expect around 150 bikes involved and probably somewhere close to 200 riders,” Smith added. “It ought to be a great turnout, we are looking forward to it.”
Funds raised from the the memorial ride go back into the community by helping local students.
“The money that’s generated from the ride goes to fund four scholarships to local high school seniors,” he said. “It also goes for the upkeep and maintenance on our memorial. It’s what we used to build the memorial initially.
“We also have a second phase that we are wanting to build, but it takes a little time to get all the money together for that,” he added. “We’re getting close to being able to do our second phase.”
Smith said the second phase of the Sedalia Firefighters’ Memorial located at Liberty Park will be an “opposing wall or monuments that will offer expansion” for the existing structure.
He explained the reason for the memorial.
“Initially, firefighters in Sedalia didn’t work long careers,” he noted. “You can go back over the history of the department and see when there was a big fire in town, because they had a huge turnover in the fire service. They may work for seven or eight years, they’d have a big fire and people would quit and then they’d hire a new group in.
“Now, the fire service has turned into a career,” Smith added. “We have guys who are staying for their full lengths now and retiring as firefighters. So, that’s who we are putting on the wall these days, people who have completed their service as Sedalia firefighters.”
The memorial also has a special section for fallen SFD firefighters.
“They are on a special plaque,” Smith noted.
Smith said this year’s ride would leave from Liberty Park at 11 a.m., travel south on Limit Avenue to Broadway Boulevard, then move east on Broadway to Ingram Avenue. The group planed to travel down state Route U to Cole Camp, then to Lakeview Heights.
“There’s a Fraternal Order of Eagles that has a place there,” Smith said of Lakeview Heights. “Then we go to Smithton, they are stopping at the high school. Then we end up at Dickie Doo (Bar B Que).”
Smith said prizes would be awarded at 4:30 p.m. and would include a $300 first place award, a $200 second place and a $100 third place. Since the ride is a poker run the person with the lowest score also wins a prize.
“We also pay for the lowest score, which we give the money back for their registration,” he said.
Smith said the Pettis County Fire Protection District and Sedalia Police Department were on hand to help with traffic.
“Some of our on-duty personnel are controlling other intersections,” he noted. “We have some volunteers who work in the code enforcement department at City Hall that come out every year to help us. We appreciate all that help.”
Brian Fisher, of Pilot Grove, said he was taking his first ride with the group. Fisher was riding a Honda Shadow and traveling with Craig and Becky Fisher, of Cole Camp, who rode their Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.
Craig Fisher said he and his wife ride often and they participated in the first memorial ride. He was glad to be riding for a good cause.
“That’s the ones we try to ride in, that benefits somebody, somewhere,” he said.
“This and the Honor Flight,” Brian Fisher offered.
Randy Simmons and Diane Durrill, of St. Joseph, rode down on a Harley-Davidson Tri-Glide pulling a small trailer with a Ford Mustang body. Simmons said he had participated four times in the memorial ride.
Before the ride Simmons was busy talking with friends, Randy and Melissa Parker, who were riding “Big Hoss,” a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, and John Witte and Anne Bird on a Harley Davidson 2007 Classic.
“I’ve done every one of them,” Parker, of Sedalia, said. “This is great. It’s a great thing, getting out and talking to everybody. You see a lot of people you ain’t seen in a long time, and the money goes toward a good cause.
“I had a couple of friends who were firefighters,” he added. “Red Morris was a friend of mine and Gary Sutton, I played softball with all those guys.”
Not everyone brought their motorcycle. Bill Chevalier and his daughter, Amber Harshner, both of La Monte, drove a 1999 Plymouth Prowler convertible.
Chevalier said he has participated in all the rides except the first one. Harshner said this was her first time to go on the ride.
“I think it represents true brotherhood, in all aspects,” Harshner noted. “It’s cool to see all the motorcycle families come out and support the firefighting families.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.