20th annual Niles Burn Run raises funds to send burn-injured children to camp

NILES – Motorcyclists are sometimes known for being a tough crowd, but this past weekend, hundreds joined together in Niles to show their softer side.

For its 20th ride, the Niles Burn Run navigated an unpredictable weekend of weather. Music had to be postponed or canceled due to incoming storms. Despite this, nearly 300 motorcycles put rubber to the finally-dry pavement at noon Sunday to ride together on the 50-mile ride.

All money raised from the event will help send burn-injured children to the Great Lakes Burn Camp.

As the ride launched, local law enforcement agencies closed off side streets and East Main Street in Niles. A police escort and riders crested the hill at N. Fourth Street underneath a large American flag waving over the center of the street. For the next four minutes, the rumble of motorcycle engines echoed from the buildings as passengers and drivers alike waved to those gathered to watch along the sidewalks.

Niles Burn Run President Steve “Fuji” Adolph said the money raised is still being balanced, but that the fundraising for the Great Lakes Burn Camp was successful.

“The people that attended [Sunday] were very generous with handing out donations,” Adolph said. “That was awesome.”

Adolph said many law enforcement individuals were on the ground through the festival and during the ride’s escort.

“There were more than you can shake a stick at,” Adolph said of officers and contributing law enforcement departments who aided the event.

He said participating departments included Berrien Springs, Dowagiac, Buchanan, Buchanan Township, as well as the heavy presence of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and Niles City Reserve Police Officers.

“[The BCSO and NPD] manned up and had officers on the campus the entire weekend, which is really awesome,” Adolph said. “In lieu of how things have been going around the United States with violence, with their presence being there, nothing bad happened.”

With having to rearrange performances, and anticipating severe weather, Adolph said the weekend was rougher than years past.

“Only one band was completely canceled,” Adolph said. “On Saturday, the first band played 80-percent of their set. One band was canceled. Fillmore’s Ladder played about 45-minutes before we had to clear everything out for safety.”

According to Adolph, the number of registered riders was more than the number that rode through Niles to start the journey. Though the sky was clear in Niles, it was rainy in several surrounding communities, which Adolph believes contributed to the lower-than-expected turnout.

“[Some riders] would have had to ride all the way through rain to get to Niles,” he said. “It explains a lot of the low attendance. It was clear in Niles, but it wasn’t so clear every other place.”

Overall, Adolph said the event and attendees ‘rode’ out rough conditions to still have fun and raise money.

“The ride did pretty well. It never hit rain,” Adolph said. “It was just a bunch of fun-loving people on bikes.”

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