CHICAGO (CBS) — Mild temperatures in the 50s over the weekend contributed to one of the largest Toys for Tots annual motorcycle parade in the past several years.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, parade spokesman George Fortier says this is the 34th year for Chicago’s Toys for Tots, which collects donations for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports
“It’s a Chicago icon now, because if you were to call Chicago and say, ‘We want to come and visit, what have you got to offer?’ we’d be one of the things that we’d brag about as far as being a parade,” he said. “That’s kind of cool.”
On Sunday morning, more than 8,000 riders began the trek at the Dan Ryan Woods at 93rd Street and headed north on Western Avenue all the way to Addison Street, where they ended the ride at the DeVry University campus on the former site of the Riverview amusement park.
Crowds of supporters cheered for riders along the way. Spectators at the corner of Western Avenue and Roscoe Street commented on the beauty of it, watching the headlights of the bikes come down the bridge.
Perhaps the loudest cheering section came at the end of the route from a Nina Gonzalez, whose Marine fiancé is stationed in California.
“We come every year; ever since I was a tot. Now I have my daughter, and I’m a future Marine wife, so it’s nice to come here while he’s over in California,” she said.
Gonzalez told WBBM Newsradio she didn’t know anyone in the event, she was cheering for them because they are Marines, and it makes her feel like part of the family by being in their presence.
Bikers were dressed as they usually do for the event. Many wore Santa Claus costumes, others just had Santa hats. Many bikes were dressed-up in gold, blue, red and green garland.
Many participants also had their toy donations strapped to the back of their bike, some had unwrapped teddy bears. We also saw Barbie dolls and Tonka trucks.
Toys will be distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps.