ROCKAWAY BEACH, MO., JULY 20–When I read that the Southwest Chapter of BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) was holding the 8th annual Bikers & Babes at the Beach at Rockaway Beach, Missouri, I couldn’t wait to get there. The heat wave in the Midwest was winding down and isolated thunderstorms were bringing relief from the relentless humidity. It was time for a ride.
I rolled into Rockaway Beach at about 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Located on the shoreline of the White River just east of Branson, Rockaway Beach is a small, isolated community of about 900; a little piece of paradise off the beaten path with a few bars and specialty shops on a quarter-mile strip bordering a park along the White River. Allegedly at one time there were drag boat races that brought in crowds of folks until “some money-hungry organization screwed that up.” We all know those stories. At any rate, Ike and the BACA crew picked out the perfect location for the event.
I was greeted by West Central BACA members and event chair “Ike” on a blocked-off main drag named Cave Street. In the background bikes lined both sides of the street mixed with about 16 vendors including a free face-painting booth for the kids, which was next to Body Creations Tattoo for the adults. The tattoo setup was owned by Scott Davis who was more than happy to apply some ink or put a hole in ya for a nominal fee. There were the normal food booths offering a variety of grub and a not-so-normal booth in a small travel trailer that offered deep-fried Oreos and pickles. From that point on you could get your knife sharpened or score some leather or a new patch.
The crowd was moderate. Ike let me know that in years past riders numbered in the 2,000–3,000 range, but with the weather moving in and out it was hard to judge this year’s attendance. “Friday we had a storm move through with high winds, horizontal rain and the works; it was brutal.” Still, from what I saw the day was young and riders were coming in nonstop to support the cause.
The heat was incredible. It was hot enough that small patches of road tar liquefied. It eventually drove everyone into the local waterin’ hole, Dockside Pub, and into the confines of the Community Center where there were T-shirt sales, donated auction items and an industrial-size fan that was keeping everyone from dyin’ of heat stroke. Kevin Armont, owner of Dockside, was kind enough to have bartender extraordinaire Chris fill a coffin-size cooler with iced-down beer and offer two-for-$5 Bloody Marys for those who attempted and lived through the Pub Crawl on Friday night. She made sure everyone was well hydrated and happy. Dockside also hosted the arm-wrestling contest and set up an outside covered patio for temporary relief. Thanks, Kevin.
Throughout the day there were plenty of bike games and contests to keep everyone busy. Tunes and announcements were provided by Artistry Entertainment and kept the run on schedule. The poker run kicked off at 10:00 a.m. with about 25 riders headin’ out to collect that winning hand and get some road time in. The Bikers and Babes Beauty Contest had a fine selection of ladies being escorted by chapter members while each contestant collected $1 votes in an attempt to become the 2013 Queen Biker Babe. Janelle took that title with 162 votes and Tamara came in a close second with 148. All the proceeds went right back to BACA for the kids. Good job, ladies!
The wienie bite and balloon toss kicked off in the park as the storm was looming on the horizon but the weather didn’t hurt the entries a bit. Missing the balloon was a plus and if it landed in your lap you were dry by the time you rode back into line. The tattoo contest was different, as entries had a picture taken of their ink and it was posted on a table. Votes were placed and you didn’t have to be there to win. Great idea; it kept the crowd down in the Community Center, allowing everyone to get out and enjoy the event. A loud pipes contest won by April and her 2002 Fat Boy had everyone standing with their fingers in their ears and Ike wishing he wasn’t the one holding the decibel meter. Don’t know how but a guy with a rollin’ electric razor got to the finals thinking that high-pitched jet engine whine would stand a chance against American steel thunder.
Bikers Against Child Abuse, through agency representatives and individuals, locates and identifies children in their area who have been subjected to abuse in any form. Once verified and determined legitimate, i.e., the authorities have been contacted and the case is in the system, a BACA liaison will contact the family and a chapter ride is organized to meet the child. The child is given a leather vest with a BACA back patch along with bumper stickers and donated gifts. In addition, mental health-trained and extensive background-checked BACA members who live in the area offer call support at any time to the child and will show up at the home at a moment’s notice to provide personal reassurance, escort service, court and parole hearings, and will stay with the child if they are alone or frightened. Levels of intervention by the chapter range from initial child contact to a neighborhood awareness ride in the vicinity of the perpetrator with door-to-door visits to families and the distribution of stickers and flyers to the kids. I am certain through the children’s eyes they see an extended family of superheroes and friends that will comfort them in times of need. Funds raised at this run will assist in purchasing Christmas and birthday gifts, clothes, food and anything else the children might need.
This run is unique as all funds raised go to the support of the kids who have been taken in and are part of the BACA family, with no promotions or hidden fees lining unknown pockets. There were no run packages offered with the traditional T-shirt, barbecue and pin, as that would be an expense taking away from the kids. Ike made it perfectly clear that all funds go to the efforts for the children. “Volunteers and cooperation from the city and local law enforcement make that possible each year.”
I took off before the wet T-shirt contest as the rain was moving in fast, and on my way out the storm hit hard. Under every bridge were groups of brothers and sisters waiting out the deluge, but hey, that’s family time and just part of the adventure. Whatever you do, don’t miss next year’s Bikers & Babes at the Beach (www.bikersandbabesatthebeach.com).