One thing about the Northwest Cherry Festival, it kind of makes a person feel all warm and fuzzy — especially if that person is a motorcycle rider.
The Teddy Bear Run has been an unofficial part of the Cherry Festival for more than 20 years.
“It’s really been sort of a guerilla part,” said Teresa Hepker. “It’s not really part of the Cherry Festival parade.”
Hepker might be described as one of the parade’s organizers — if, that is, she considered it an organized event. Riders just sort of turn up with bears or other stuffed animals riding on their handlebars or on the rear of their bikes.
“We try to make it somewhat safe and somewhat organized,” Hepker said.
One thing will help increase the safety factor, she noted. For the first time this year, the traffic lights will be blinking yellow when the riders role through about 15 minutes ahead of the parade.
The Christian Motorcycle Association has also provided a bit of protection for the riders by sitting in intersections to block traffic.
Hepker isn’t sure exactly how many stuffed animals are donated each year, but she says it is well in the hundreds, “perhaps in the thousands. It depends on the year. If we have wonderful weather we can get a huge turnout.”
The animals are donated each year to Mid-Columbia Medical Center and to emergency response organizations as a way to comfort children that may be in difficult situations.
“This year we are going to get custom ribbons made to say they are donated by motorcyclists, and have a volunteer party to label them all because people don’t know where they come from.”
All motorcyclists are welcome to join the parade, which forms up around 9:45 at the Kmart parking lot. Other riders join the group as it passes by the shopping centers.
Upon their return, riders also have the option of signing up for the Abate Poker Run, a scenic ride which also sets out froim Kmart.
Abate promotes awareness, education, safety and liberty for motorcyclists through community involvement and legislative action.