The threat of a snowy weekend in Billings did not deter the city's annual parade of leather, chrome and Christmas presents that thundered from downtown to Rimrock Mall on Sunday.
About 300 motorcyclists, many decked out in tinsel, Christmas lights and Santa hats, thundered down North 27th Street, First Avenue North and Broadwater Avenue for the Roaddogs IRO motorcycle club's 34th Annual Toy Run. That's about half of last year's turnout, a decline that Roaddogs President Mark "Curley" Helmbrecht attributed to up to 8 inches of snow that had been expected this weekend.
Billings ultimately saw little more than a skiff, but a few patches of snow remained scattered on the roadways on the cold, overcast Sunday.
"It's kind of dangerous on a bike, if you hit that solid ice, but there's guys will do it anyways, because it's a good cause," Helmbrecht said.
The ride, as always, culminated with the bikers and their families marching into the mall to pile plastic firetrucks, dolls, stuffed animals and other toys around the Christmas tree. Helmbrecht estimated that the effort brought in more than $50,000 worth of toys which the Salvation Army will then distribute to hundreds of families in the Billings area.
The idea behind the spectacle, he added, is to prompt others in town to chip in with their own donations to needy families during the holidays.
"They say, 'If those guys can do it, maybe I can go buy a $10 toy or a $5 toy,'" Helmbrecht explained. "That might be all that kid gets for Christmas. It's all about awareness."
The annual event takes months of preparation, according to Terry "Ohcaca" O'Connell, a longtime Roaddog member and a veteran of all 34 toy runs.
"This'll start again about next month," O'Connell said. "To get all the sponsors and the trucks and trailers, it's a lot to get her done."
The runs have come a long way from the inaugural event in the mid-'80s, he added.
"The first one was like five bikes and my Studebaker pickup," O'Connell said. "It kind of snowballed from there."