By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The smell of exhaust and sound of idling Harley engines hung over the BancorpSouth Arena parking lot Saturday morning as more than 300 riders readied their bikes for the annual Dixie Thunder Run.
Retired soldiers and patriotic bikers sign up every year to as a way to raise money for Operation First Response, an organization that provides emergency financial aid to U.S. soldiers and their families.
The run goes north to Southern Thunder Harley Davidson in Southaven to meet up with another group of riders and then west to Tunica where they have a reception and drawings for motorcycles and cash prizes.
Tony Shackleford, director of the run, said the turnout in Tupelo was great Saturday morning for the eighth Memorial Day ride.
Iraq War veteran David Binford of Ripley rode his Honda Goldwing.
“I’m a veteran myself and believe in supporting the soldiers because I know what they’ve been through,” he said.
Gene Sullivan of Tupelo isn’t a veteran but said he rides his Honda VTX 1800 in the run to support the troops.
“I believe in helping the soldiers,” he said. “I’ve been doing the run for six years straight and it’s a great ride for a great cause with great people. And, it’s nice to have your knees in the breeze.”
Kent Powell of Pontotoc did the run for the first time Saturday with his coworker Ed Roy, who rode in the first Dixie Thunder Run.
“I’ve been doing it off and on since it started,” Roy said, standing next to his Harley Fat Boy. “I’m all behind my troops.”
The riders’ engines drowned out all other sounds at 9 a.m. as they pulled out of the arena, going East on Main Street and then jumping on Highway 45.