Dixie Thunder Run rolls into town
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 6, 2015
NATCHEZ — Motorcycles lined the bluff Saturday as an estimated 1,000 bikers — including Mississippi’s governor — rolled into Natchez for the Dixie Thunder Run.
The motorcycle event has been around for 10 years, and Col. Greg Michel of the Mississippi National Guard and one of the run’s organizers. Michel said he has been involved in the Dixie Thunder Run since its inception.
“I’m very humbled by how it has grown,” Michel said.
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Michel said the group has raised approximately $500,000 for soldiers since it began, with this year’s proceeds going to Operation First Response.
“Today is the main event,” Michel said on Saturday. “It’s when all our riders come in.”
Gov. Phil Bryant was one of the bikers who rode in early, arriving on Friday.
“He actually came in last night and spoke to the infantry battalion reunion,” Michel said.
On Saturday, Bryant addressed the bikers before heading out. But as he left town, more bikers were headed to Natchez for the weekend’s events.
Michel said organizers were expecting between 700 to 1,000 bikers when everyone arrived, coming from all across Mississippi and Louisiana.
The trip required an early morning for some. Dana Smith got up at 6:15 a.m. to begin the long drive from Biloxi to Natchez, stopping in Hattiesburg to meet up with friends.
He arrived at approximately noon.
“A hot shower and a soft bed will be much appreciated tonight,” Smith said.
Saturday’s trip marked the second time Smith participated in the run.
“The main reason is the cause, to raise money for the wounded veterans and also the wounded first responders,” Smith said.
Another reason, Smith said, was the social aspect.
“It gives us a chance to meet people we haven’t met in years and years,” Smith said.
Smith said he hadn’t seen Rodney Violette, the commander of the Miss-Lou Veterans Coalition Honor Guard, since approximately 2011.
Violette lives in Cranfield, he said, and was called in for the event. Violette said he thought the Dixie Thunder Run was one of the best runs in Mississippi.
“It’s soldiers helping soldiers,” he said.
The honor guard later presented a flag flown at Arlington National Cemetery to Jack Kerwin, a retired, 89-year-old veteran who served in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“It’s an honor to do what we do, and particularly to honor someone who’s served in three wars,” Violette said.
Kerwin said he’d been asked to help with the event, and had no idea he was going to be honored.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to receive it,” Kerwin said, referring to the flag.
A party for Thunder Run attendees and locals was scheduled for Saturday night on Main Street.
A memorial service is scheduled for 9 a.m. today on the bluff.