Riding, raising awareness

Boots on the Ground’s annual motorcycle run will take place Saturday to raise money for the Fergus Falls Veterans Home recreation fund.

Boots on the Ground will be holding their annual motorcycle run this Saturday to raise money for the Fergus Falls Veterans Home recreation fund. This is the seventh year of the run and Darcy Soland-Farmer, who works in the Veterans Home’s recreation department and is the founder and chair of Boots on the Ground, thinks it will be their most successful run yet.

“It’s hard to look into the future, I’d say. I know other bike runs that have taken place this year, some of them are in North Dakota, they actually had bigger turnouts because there hasn’t been a lot of runs,” Soland-Farmer said. “I think our numbers will probably be up from last year, I know the weather is supposed to be in our favor.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been a lot of changes to the run this year. Where they would normally hold the opening ceremony at the Veterans Home, allowing the veterans to see all the motorcycles as they parade out, the restrictions at the home have forced the festivities outdoors at the Fergus Falls VFW Post 612. “We’re following all of the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines. It’ll be outside,” said Soland-Farmer. “We’re not doing anything at the Veterans Home other than making a circle around there so the vets can look through the windows. … The social distancing on a motorcycle is 6 feet, that’s how big a bike is, so we know that social distancing will take place when people are out riding.”

Participants can register for the run on Saturday at VFW Post 612 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. The opening ceremony is at 10 a.m. with the run beginning at noon. The run ends back at the VFW with a closing ceremony at 5:30 p.m. followed by a free-will donation supper, gun raffle at 6:30 p.m. and a dance from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. featuring music group Asking For A Friend.

Maps will be handed out at registration to indicate businesses participating in Boots on the Ground. “None of our stops have changed, we’ve got the same establishments supporting us this year as in the past,” said Soland-Farmer. Last year there were a little over a dozen locations including American Legion Underwood, Mable Murphy’s, VFW Pelican Rapids and Fergus Falls.

The funds raised through registration fees, free-will donations, silent auctions, raffle tickets and donations to memorialize loved ones who are veterans on a dog tag, set out on display with a pair of combat boots and an American flag on the day of the run, go toward the Veterans Home recreation fund. It helps pay for activities for the home’s residents, such as taking veterans to local sporting events, meal outings, fishing trips, casino trips and more. “We’re still doing things that cost money for the veterans and that’s why we’re continuing to raise the money,” says Soland-Farmer. “We’re still having music, we’re actually bringing a meal into them twice a week. So those things cost money, maybe it’s not a lot but when our restrictions do end up getting lifted, we’re going to be back out with the vets safely and as soon as we can and getting them out of the building because it’s sad. It’s hard for them.”

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