What began four years ago as a modest event to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has blossomed into a full-scale patriotic celebration, which this year will attract thousands of residents and raise thousands of dollars for veterans and first responder charities.
In fact, the celebration hosted by the American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 44 has been moved to a new venue this year to accommodate the expected crowd, said Mike Graham, one of the event organizers.
The fourth annual Remembrance Ride and Patriot Day Observance will take place Saturday, Sept. 10, from noon to 8 p.m. at the International Independent Showmen's Association, 6915 Riverview Dr., Riverview.
“Four years ago the post noticed no one was doing anything in the area to commemorate 9/11, so we decided to have a pig roast at our post on Pauls Drive in Brandon,” Graham said. “In a couple of years, we were attracting 500 people and outgrew the post. So we moved the event to the Winthrop Pole Barn. Last year, 3,000 people attended and we outgrew the pole barn. So this year we’ve moved the event to the larger Showmen’s building in Riverview. We’re expecting 5,000 to 7,000 people to attend Saturday’s event."
The event will revolve around a slightly rusty steel beam that Graham said radiates with significance.
“It’s a beam from the World Trade Center that we’ll have on display along with two flags of honor and a motorcycle bearing the names of all those who perished that day,” Graham said. “We’ll begin the event by observing a moment of silence in their memory.
The purpose of the event, said Graham, is to inspire and remind the community of the patriotism and pride that brought the nation together after the terrorist attacks; remember those who lost their lives that day and in the conflicts since then; to honor and show community support for first responders and the military, “the heroic men and women who serve to protect us every day.”
Over the past years, AMVETS Post 44 has raised more than $15,000 to support Recreational Therapy Services at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and others in need in the community. Proceeds from this year’s event also will support local police and firemen’s charities.
“We’re still determining which charities we’ll be donating the money to,” Graham said. “This is our biggest fundraiser and we want to make sure every dollar we give goes to a good cause.”
In addition to the solemn observance, the event will feature food and entertainment, Graham said.
“We wanted to make this a family-oriented community,” Graham said.
There will be bouncy houses and other children’s activities; food vendors selling hamburgers, hotdogs, snow cones, Cuban sandwiches, pizza, cotton candy and beverages for all ages; and a classic and antique car and motorcycle show hosted by the Rolling Thunder Florida Chapter 11 car club.
The highlight of the event will be a remembrance ride featuring an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 motorcyclists, said Graham. Motorcyclists will start at five locations around the Bay Area and ride to the Patriot Day Observance at the International Independent Showmen’s Association. Ride starting locations will be:
- James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, 13000 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa
- Pot Hole Bar, 4210 New Tampa Highway, Lakeland
- Quaker Steak & Lube, 10400 49th St. N., Clearwater
- Target parking lot, 15240 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa
- Peggy’s Corral, 4511 US 41 N., Palmetto
In addition, various first responders will be on hand with displays and equipment.
Three bands will entertain the community during the event: the Greg Billings Band, Pitbull Toddler (featuring members of the Cowhead Show on 102.5 FM) and the Diamond Gray Band.
The event also will include a raffle for a big-screen TV with surround sound and a live auction featuring Tampa Bay Lightning and Rays memorabilia and round-trip airline tickets from Southwest Airlines.
The Fran M. Haasch Law Group is the major sponsor of the event.
“The AMVETS have a proud history of supporting our military and first responders,” said Graham. “We want to invite the community to come and show their appreciation for these heroic men and women. This is a good day to remember what Sept. 11 is all about.”
The cost is $15 for members of the community. Military and first responders will be admitted free.