For the 23rd straight year, bikers from around the Region swept through Michigan City and LaPorte for Harley-Davidson of Michigan City’s Annual Blue Ball Run.
Held the first Saturday of November - rain, snow, or shine - the ride costs $10 per person, with all funds going towards Toys for Tots. The program, run by the US Marine Corps, distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford Christmas gifts. Riders go kickstands up at the dealership and then make their way to a few local bars and restaurants, before returning to Harley-Davidson for a chili cook-off.
“Everything we raise here goes right towards Toys for Tots,” said Katlyn Slater, officer manager for Harley-Davidson of Michigan City.
“After the ride, we’ll go shopping and fill up boxes of toys multiple times. We’ll also pick up things like canned goods, food for pets, just trying to do everything we can for all kinds of people.”
Northwest Indiana’s weather makes for a bit of roulette each year. Sometimes the ride is nothing but warm sunshine, others it’ll see a dusting of frost and snow. This time around, riders braved wind gusts upwards of 50 miles per hour.
“We’ve had absolutely beautiful years where it’s 75 degrees out and just absolutely amazing,” Slater said. “It’s unpredictable, but we love it. This is one of a few events we run every single year no matter what, and for some of our customers, this is the ride they’ll do each year no matter what as well. It’s nice to see them come out and join us for some fun.”
Two of those steadfast riders are Rachelle and Sean Spears, who make a point to participate in the ride every chance they get.
“This is at least our tenth time at this particular run,” Sean Spears said. “The unpredictability of the weather is part of the fun. I’ve ridden in everything from 37 with rain and snow to 75 and sunny. It’s just a good end-of-the-year tradition, especially with it raising funds. It’s nice to contribute.”
Some riders see Harley-Davidson’s Blue Ball Run as their last ride before putting their bike in storage for the year, others take the seasons in stride.
“I’ll ride anytime during the year,” Spears said. “Whenever the opportunity strikes, it doesn’t matter to me.”
The chili cook-off is as beloved a tradition as the ride itself, with the Harley-Davidson staff, riders, and their families bringing their homestyle renditions of the classic dish - and accompanying sides.
“It’s a wonderful event, helping Toys for Tots and giving back to the community,” said Lissa Houth, one ride participant who brought along corn muffins. “They do a lot of these kinds of events here at Harley-Davidson of Michigan City and we try to make all of them. It’s just rewarding to help those in need have a nice Christmas.”
The team at Harley-Davidson will continue to collect toys throughout the holiday season, and have a box available for the drop-off of new, unwrapped toys.