By Megan Knowles
If you ride motorcycles in northeast Indiana, you know spring actually starts the Saturday after Easter, with the Blessing of the Bikes in Arcola.
The event began in 1989 after St. Pat’s parishioner Jerry Gordon decided to put something he saw in a magazine into action locally.
“The priest at the time was all for it,” Gordon said. “So we started out with just a few bikes, 16 or so. Then it went from that to a hundred to a couple hundred.
“It depends on the weather. If it’s even a cloudy day like this but not raining, we’ll have all the parking lots full of bikes. On a nice sunny day…there could be anywhere from a thousand to two, three, four thousand bikes plus.”
The event is simple: Riders from northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan gather at the church in Arcola. The event consists usually of a couple of readings and a prayer, with everyone gathered saying an “Our Father,” Gordon said.
Then comes the official blessing of the bikes. In the early days, the priest would walk from bike to bike, christening them with holy water.
“It got so big for a couple years that we have it set up so it’s more of a drive through (now),” Gordon said.
In addition to the blessing, the church youth group provides hot dogs, bratwurst and refreshments, Gordon said. There is also a 50/50 drawing that benefits the youth group’s summer trip.
“It’s a community affair. The whole church gets involved in it,” he said.
Though the official event ends after the ceremony, local businesses have taken to hosting after parties.
The Arcola Inn and Ale has been holding an after party for several years, manager Katie Martin said.
This year, there will be drink specials and the Hubie Ashcraft Band will play from 2-5 p.m.
Martin said the after party is usually well attended.
“We’re pretty packed,” Gordon said. “It’s the first biggest motorcycle event of the year in town. Rain or shine people are out riding.”
Harley-Davidson of Fort Wayne is hosting its second after party this year, spokesperson Becca Reichard said.
There will be food and beer provided by the Red Rock Saloon from noon to 6 p.m. and the Grateful Groove, a Grateful Dead cover band, will begin playing at 2 p.m.
“It’s kind of a little gathering to hang out and check out everybody’s bike afterward,” Reichard said, adding last year’s event was well attended.
For many, Blessings of the Bikes is a good way to start the riding year.
“People look forward to it, to start the riding season on the right foot,” Gordon said.