PHOTOS: Baldwin's Blessing of the Bikes celebrates 50 years

BALDWIN — Beautiful weather, lots of hard preparation and a milestone 50th anniversary was the perfect combination to draw thousands of visitors to Baldwin with motorcycles zooming in from each direction for Blessing of the Bikes weekend May 13-15. 

The annual Blessing of the Bikes, hosted by Para-Dice Motorcycle Club of Grand Rapids and locally promoted by Lake County Chamber of Commerce, is one of the biggest events in the area with bikers coming from all over Michigan, as well as other states, for a weekend of fun, comradery and the main focus, a blessing for a safe riding season. 

All the work to keep traffic, motorcyclists and visitors safe also took much dedication and coordination from many area public safety organizations. 

Along with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, Sheriff Rich Martin gave a shout out to partners in public safety who gave hours of their time, including Pleasant Plains Fire Department, Lake Township Fire Department, Carr Settlement Fire Department, Webber Fire Department, Reed City Fire Department, LeRoy Fire Department, sheriff's offices in Newaygo, Mason, Oceana, Wexford, Osceola and Manistee counties, Michigan State Police, Lake County Central Dispatch, U.S. Forest Service, as well as Northwest Realty and Lake County Chamber of Commerce. 

"A big thanks again goes out to residents of Baldwin and the surrounding area. We appreciate your kindness, patience and understanding during the largest weekend event in Lake County," Martin said. 


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The Blessing of the Bikes was inaugurated by Father David Hawley, at St. Ann Catholic Church in 1972, and grew each year from there, with some years bringing in more than 20,000 bikes. For decades, the event supported the senior meal program, and, the past three years, proceeds support veterans through Duane E. Dewey AMVETS Post No. 1988 and AMVETS Riders. 

Along with this year being the 50th anniversary, this also is the last year Para-Dice Motorcycle Club will host the event. Next year, the torch will be passed to AMVETS Post No. 1988. 

A market place flourished downtown with vendors and artisans. Many area nonprofits also were able to raise money during the weekend and on Sunday at the airport, where the blessing took place. 

Along with bikers traveling miles upon miles to come to the big event, the Baldwin area also has motorcycle enthusiasts who look forward to the event every year. Mary Beth has been coming to the Blessing about 30 years. 

"Its nice to see everybody out and about and enjoying themselves and bringing business to the community. Its a good deal for everybody," she said. 


During the Blessing on Sunday, Sen. Curt Vanderwall (R-Ludington) presented a special tribute state certificate acknowledging the 50 year anniversary. 

AMVETS Post No. 1988 Commander Marlene Gaitan was presented on the stage by Para-Dice Motorcycle Club to speak a few words.  
"Thank you for being here and thank you for supporting us. We are going to keep everything the same. Why try to fix something that's not broken. And every year from here on out we will have weather just like this," she said, which was met with applause. 

The local area band Cats and Jammers then performed "I'll Fly Away" and "Wings of a Dove."

John Gooch, of Otsego, with Remnant Sons Motorcycle Club, who presided over the blessing, spoke a few words. 

"For me its been over 30 years," he said. "This blessing has been incredible, but there's always a flip side. Every year we come together and we celebrate this date. We look at what God has done, and we deal with the fact that we have brothers and sisters that aren't here.

"Some of them are taken by acts of providence where they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, its the careless nature of that guy that's got a phone or something else in his hands driving and not paying attention. And sometimes, its things like COVID.

"But no matter what it is, we're either going one direction or the other direction when our time comes, and nobody knows when that time is so you better be ready when your time comes."

Gooch asked for a moment of silence to remember those who weren't there this year. 

"There are bikers here that love God, that love that open road and love the freedom that we all have," he said.  

During his blessing, Gooch thanked God for the beautiful day, for getting to ride and enjoy all of creation, comradery with other bikers and friendship. He prayed safety for their coming and going.

Then Gooch called out, "Let them engines roar."

The rows upon rows of bikes packing the airport field each powered-up, humming in unison — the vibration of the roaring motors bringing a voice of its own as an "amen" in response to the blessing, the 50 years of celebration and the season ahead.