By Dave Abrahams and Chelsea Geach
Rolling thunder rumbled across Southern Africa on Sunday as an estimated 100 000 bikers turned out for close to two dozen Toy Runs around the country. From a 15 000 strong procession in Gauteng to smaller groups in Queenstown, Walvis Bay and Bethlehem, riders everywhere – many dressed as Santa Claus – strapped teddy bears, toy fire engines and even Christmas trees to their bikes and gathered for what is now one of the largest motorcycle charity events in the world.
The 31st annual GAUTENG TOY RUN started from five different venues across the Witwatersrand – the Blockhouse 1-Stop near Vereeniging, the Irene Village Mall, Meadowdale Mall in Edenvale and the SilverStar Casino in Pinehaven – escorted by the Provincial Traffic Services and timed to converge on the Benoni Northerns Sports Grounds in Benoni in an almost unbroken stream of bikes that seemed to go on for hours.
At the end venue there were refreshments, food and memorabilia on sale, as well as the latest motorcycles to check out, accessories, bikewear and biker bling of all shapes and materials at more than 180 stalls, while MC Paul Rotherham and rock bands Tryst and Backbone kept the crowds entertained.
But as always, the focus was on the big tent where the huge piles of 22 722 toys donated by about 22 000 two-wheeled Santas, their pillions and friends elicited the same reaction from every first-time Toy Runner – a missed step, a double-take and a huge grin.
CAPE TOWN TOY RUN No. 31 started from two new venues in 2013; at the northern venue in the grounds of Grand West, the casino staff pulled out all the stops to ensure a problem-free start, marshalling more than 4000 motorcycles through a dedicated gate in an orderly stream, while Cape Town’s Traffic Services escorted the procession through Thornton to join a similar number of bikes coming up from the southern start at Makro Ottery.
The city’s disaster management marshals had closed every side street on to Ottery Road, and the Toy Runners proceeded smoothly on to the M5 where as usual, hundreds of spectators had gathered to watch the passing parade.
The two processions merged on Settlers Way, taking nearly an hour to pass through the leafy Southern Suburbs to the end venue at Maynardville.
Traffic control after the halfway point was less effective, however, leading to a few near-misses as impatient car drivers tried to break into the procession, but no untoward incidents were reported.
At the end venue rock bands the Blues Broers, Tuxedo and Rock the Flock, as well as top comedians headlined by Kurt Schoonraad, kept the crowds entertained, while the two five-ton trucks parked at the centre of the action were soon filled to overflowing with more than 30 000 toys donated by about 8000 two-wheeled Santas, their pillions and friends.
Maynardville, however, was not without its problems.
When the Toy Run convenors were granted access to the park late on Friday, they found that all the stand-pipes had been stolen, so there was no water supply. Most of the electricity supply points weren’t working and the ablution blocks were non-operational.
Quick action by stall-holders on Saturday provided pipe and fittings for water and a jury-rigged electricity supply, while the Toy Run committee scrambled to provided portable ablution blocks.
Toy Run committee vice-chairwoman Glynis Coetzee said: “Ever since Western Cape Premier Helen Zille called the Toy Run ‘an iconic Cape Town event’ we have felt that we were in partnership with the City in hosting the Toy Run.
“This year it didn’t feel like a partnership, it felt like they kept rolling rocks in our way.”
The Toy Run is by its nature a family event, and the riders were disappointed to find that the city’s new liquor bylaws barred under-18’s from the beer garden and prohibited them from joining their families under the trees for a quiet drink.
Coetzee said: “The draconian enforcement of these regulations – at an event of more than 30 years standing with no history of alcohol-related incidents – was forcing the bikers to choose between their beer and their children.
“Some resorted to lifting smaller children over the beer-garden fence; others simply went home early.
“But we’ve also received lots of positive feedback,” she added, looking over her shoulder at 10 tons of toys, “and it looks like we’ve at least equalled last year’s record of 34 000 toys.”
The fifteenth DURBAN TOY RUN, held in perfect biking weather, attracted a record 7000 riders to the start point at Westville’s Pavilion Mall and, thanks to expert marshalling by Metro Traffic Services, saw a problem-free parade to the Lords Legends Sports Café in Amanzimtoti – except for a single incident where a small group of riders broke away from the procession and were followed by number of Toy Run newbies, who trailed into the end venue at the end of the parade.
Toy co-ordinator Lesley Boes (her husband Jo is the Run co-ordinator!) said the difficult financial climate in KwaZulu-Natal was reflected in the total of toys donated, which was down a little from the previous year at about 15 000 – although the bands still complained that they couldn’t see their audience past the huge pile of toys heaped up in front of the stage!
At the end venue Boes and her helpers ‘kidnapped’ the presidents of the prominent motorcycle clubs taking part and held them to ransom on the stage. In a matter of minutes the members of the various clubs came up with more than R20 000, whereupon the president of the club that came up with the biggest ransom got to choose which of the Toy Run’s beneficiary charities would receive the entire amount.
About 2500 riders donated close to 3000 toys at the BLOEMFONTEIN TOY RUN, which ended with a party of note at the Cheetah Pub and Grill in Bainsvlei – despite the end venue being damp after overnight rain – where there were trophies to be won, stalls, refreshments on sale and entertainment for children.
Tony Halket, convenor of the 22nd PORT ELIZABETH TOY RUN, told IOL Motoring he’d lost three kilograms after two days of running around in scorching heat – but that it was worth it in light of the approximately 2500 toys donated by more than 2000 riders, with more to come from collection points at the branches of an Eastern Cape pharmacy chain.
He added that the 1500 or so Toy Runners and their friends who attended the end-venue party – where sponsored prizes to the value of R90 000 were raffled – got through 30 cases of beer in the first 100 minutes and that the bar went on to take a total of R66 000 in less than six hours; all the profit from the venue will go to the Toy Run’s nominated children-focused charities.
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