Autism ride stopping in Natchez

Published 12:01 am Friday, March 14, 2008

NATCHEZ — Loud music, leather, poker and 300 motorcycles will storm the Marketplace Cafe Saturday night.

And it’s all for charity.

The fifth annual Ride for Autism motorcycle poker run is taking place this weekend and for the third year in a row, it’s stopping in Natchez.

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The poker run begins in Scott and makes stops in St. Francisville and Alexandria and ends where it began.

At each stop, a playing card is given to the motorcyclist and at the end, whoever has the better hand wins.

The stop in Natchez is just more than drawing a card, but also a celebration.

Donald Royer, chairman of Ride for Autism, said the first two years they went to Galveston, Texas, but had to switch somewhere else.

“They couldn’t find a nice respectable place for us to have a get together,” Royer said.

Mike Byrne, owner of the Marketplace, said Natchez was suggested by Royer because he thought it was a nice place.

“Mike’s place for us is darn near perfect,” Royer said. “Natchez has been great.”

He said Natchez offers a lot to do outside of the poker run, like viewing the antebellum homes and riding the Natchez Trace.

It costs $35 per hand and all the proceeds go Project Independence, an organization formed to help families with autism and to raise awareness.

One thing that will really raise awareness is the band that will be playing in Natchez, Royer said.

The band is Mustang Sally, an all-girls band from Nashville.

Byrne said in previous years local bands have played but they’re moving up to high profile bands.

The number of participants and the money raised is also increasing yearly.

Byrne said the first year in Natchez, about 120 people attended the party at Marketplace.

Royer said roughly 300 people are participating in this year’s poker run.

The first year, $8,000 was raised and last year almost $22,000 was raised, Royer said.

The Marketplace will be serving crawfish and will offer a limited dinner menu Saturday night and the band will play from 7 to 8 and from 9 to 10.

The public is welcome and will have the chance to play a poker hand but will also be charged $35.