Blessing of the Bikes formed 50 years ago at St. Ann’s

Annual event set for May 13-15

BALDWIN — As one of the biggest events in the area, drawing thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts to Baldwin each third weekend in May, Blessing of the Bikes got its start 50 years ago with the Rev. Fr. Dave Hawley, priest at St. Ann Catholic Church.

In January 1972, Hawley was assigned as priest to St. Joseph Catholic Church in White Cloud, of which St. Ann’s in Baldwin was a mission church until it became its own independent parish in 1973. Hawley was community-minded and began services for seniors, including the meal program, which has formed into St. Ann Senior Center, which continues to service many needs for seniors this day. 

“Father Dave is looking forward to taking an active part in the community affairs, in addition to his pastoral duties. He is very much interested in young and old alike and is hoping to contribute his services to them in whatever way he can,” said a document recording St. Ann’s history. 

The history account further stated, “Note: Father Dave worked with a motorcycle group from Grand Rapids (Para-Dice Motorcycle Club) to begin Blessing of the Bikes.” 

With the first Blessing of the Bikes inaugurated in 1972, eight riders and four motorcycles met at St. Ann’s church - the celebration’s main purpose to offer a blessing for a safe riding season for bikers. Proceeds from the annual event went to St. Ann’s outreaches for seniors, which continued through Hawley’s time at St. Ann’s to the priest who succeeded him, Ray Bruck in 1979, and decades beyond.

The festival became better known and bigger through the years, and continues to draw big crowds to Baldwin, from all over. Lake County Chamber of Commerce is the No. 1 promoter and supporter of the festival, and works hard with Para-Dice Motorcycle Club, the village of Baldwin, Lake County Sheriff's Office, fire departments, M-DOT, and many other groups to make the event a continual success, according to the LCCC website.

In recent years, proceeds at the gate now benefit Duane E. Dewey AMVETS Post 1988 in support of veterans.

The Blessing also benefits the community as a whole. Many local area charities and nonprofits set up booths during the Blessing to raise money for their causes, and offers area and local vendors a chance to sell their goods. Businesses thrive during the weekend with all the visitors who come to the county, bikers and non-bikers alike. 

This year’s event will take place Friday, May 13, through Sunday, May 15, with a market in downtown Baldwin, and the blessing ceremony at 1:15 p.m. Sunday at the Baldwin Airport. Gates open at 9 a.m. and there is a $5 donation per bike. No pets or alcohol allowed during the blessing event. Entrance wristbands are available at the downtown market place and AMVETS Riders Post No. 1988.