By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The BancorpSouth Arena parking lot was roaring with idling Harley-Davidson engines Saturday morning as more than 500 riders prepared their bikes for the Dixie Thunder Run.
The ride from Tupelo to Southern Thunder Harley-Davidson in Southaven is in its seventh year. Each year, the proceeds from the ride go to provide emergency relief to families in each of the five military service branches.
“What you’ll see out here is a lot of veterans and a lot of everyday people who want to show their support for a cause like this,” said Sgt. 1st Class Tony Shackleford, who led the run on his Harley-Davidson Road Glider. “Plus, we have fun doing it – riding motorcycles.”
The ride left from the BancorpSouth Arena at 9 a.m. and stopped at the VFW in Holly Springs before cruising up Highway 78 to Southaven.
Chris Perrigin of Caledonia said he likes to ride because of the freedom a motorcycle offers on the open road and he decided to do the Dixie Thunder Run this year for the first time because he wanted to support soldiers and their families.
Greg Mitchell of Amory, who was parked next to Perrigin, said it’s a cause that’s close to home.
“I did active duty and my son is active duty in the Marine Corps so this is a benefit that’s worthwhile,” he said.
Since 2006, the Dixie Thunder Run has been able to provide more than $110,000 to injured 155th Brigade Combat Team of Mississippi soldiers, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee Military Emergency Relief, Operation First Response and the Better Life Foundation.
Shackelford said they hope to be able to hand out $50,000 this year.
“It’s for the troops and as far as I’m concerned you can’t do enough for the troops,” said Tom Russell of Thaxton who served in the Navy during Vietnam and has drove the Dixie Thunder Run once before. “It’s the camaraderie between the bikers and the good cause.”