What started as a small riding rally eight years ago has grown into an event that organizers expect will bring about 300 people to the region next month.
“We started out as a small rally, thinking we could get people here and show them around so they could come back and they keep coming back with more every year,” said Beth Fraley, 1st officer of the Northeast Tennessee Chapter of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club.
The club will host the ninth-annual Tennessee Ridge Runner Weekend on June 20-23 at the Holiday Inn in Johnson City.
The first year the event was held, Fraley said about 80 local riders participated.
Last year, that number grew to 300 riders, and with registered participants from Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Canada, Fraley said she hopes the number continues to grow.
“It’s grown every year, so I’m hoping it’s going to be as big or bigger than last year,” she said.
Part of the draw of the event is the region’s numerous routes that are perfect for motorcycle riders.
“They love the area and they come back during the year. They’ll come back this fall and ride again when the leaves change. I get people that email me all the time, asking if we can meet up with them and take them around some more,” Fraley said.
The weekend will feature a number of rides across the region, including the annual Dice Run, which will take riders on a scenic tour of the area toward Rogersville.
While the other rides during the weekend are only for Southern Cruisers members, Fraley said the Dice Run is open to the public.
“As long as you ride and you’ve got a driver’s license, you’re good to go,” she said.
The event will benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Since the Southern Cruisers national organization formed more than 10 years ago, they have raised nearly $2 million for St. Jude’s.
Fraley said the local chapter has raised nearly $25,000 for the children’s hospital since the Ridge Runner Weekend started.
Riders also collect toys during the event that are later donated to Niswonger Children’s Hospital, a St. Jude affiliate clinic.
Over the past eight years, the event has brought more than $300,000 to the local economy, according to Johnson City Convention & Visitors Bureau Director of Sales Sarah Rowan.
“Johnson City is a motorcycle-friendly town and when rallies like this are hosted here, that has a positive effect on our economy. This event will bring in thousands of dollars to our city and the local organizer has done a great job in growing the event to the size it is. The more visitors we see, the better economic impact we experience,” she said.
For more information about the event, including registration, visit www.northeasttennesseescrc.com.