On Saturday, 200 motorcycles and bikers gathered outside of the Harley-Davidson of Valparaiso to participate in the annual bike blessing. The group gathered to share live Christian rock music and prayer.
The event began with bikers inside the store browsing merchandise. They also stood outside waiting for the band and blessing to begin. Harley-Davidson provided coffee and donuts to attendees, but these bikers did not need any convincing to be there.
Judy and Larry West have been biking since they were young adults and estimate that they have been bikers for about 50 years.
“Biking is almost my whole life,” said Judy West. “I’d rather ride a motorcycle than do anything else in the world.”
“We just came back up north from being down in the south. The biker friends and everything we have here is great,” said Larry West.
The Valparaiso location is also home to some of the bikers.
“We love Valpo Harley-Davidson more than any other Harley-Davidson in the world,” Judy West said with a smile. “They’re awesome here—the service, the clothing. It’s just nice to walk in there, everyone is so sweet. They always say hello, and most of the time they remember your name. It means a lot.”
Pastor Phil Willingham, HBMM Chaplin, has been hosting the bike blessing for multiple years.
“It’s always a great time,” said Willingham. “We start out the ride season and have a keen awareness of how we constantly need, not only our own bike skills, but God’s protection so he may watch over us throughout this ride season.”
Willingham was first a pastor, but he has always been a motorcycle-lover. He combined his two passions into a ministry. He was concerned that there were a lot of bikers who did not feel fully at peace in the average church setting, and his ministry provides a different experience for worship.
The community of this event was strong. While the band was playing, all of the bikers were chatting merrily but as soon as Willingham took the stage, the chatter died down.
He led a moment of remembrance for all of the bikers who would be unable to bike this season. Bikers said the names of loved ones under their breath and stood with their heads bowed. After this, Willingham blessed all bikes and bikers that were in attendance. He, and other members of his church, passed out stickers from the blessing. The bikers slowly departed, often in groups with matching jackets or with their families riding beside them.
“Biking is freedom,” said Jeff Haggerty, General Manager of Harley-Davidson Valparaiso and Harley-Davidson Michigan City. “Harley-Davidsons, in my opinion, are a piece of American history. You get a different feeling riding them than some of the other bikes. You know, it’s hard to put words to.”