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This is the End: The Final Bikers Reunion

Celebrating Canada Day at Biker Reunion in New Liskeard

The last and biggest Bikers Reunion took place on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd, 2016. Thousands of bikers from across the continent came to New Liskeard for one last hurrah. But is the ride truly over?



Every year on Canada Day, something special happens in Northeastern Ontario. On July 1, in the picturesque lakefront city of Temiskaming Shores more than 6,000 bikers and 25,000 from all across North America turn out to celebrate and support one of the most successful events in local history—Barry Phippen’s Bikers Reunion and the 120-km Freedom Ride.

This family-friendly festival has morphed over the years from a small gathering of friends to a three-day long extravaganza with hundreds of vendors, musical acts, and entertainment for people of all ages—all for the benefit of local families affected by cancer. To date, the event has raised more than a million dollars.

Now, 15 years later, and to many people’s surprise, it’s done. The organizers announced on Facebook that 2016 will be the last Bikers Reunion.

But they also promised it would be the biggest and best yet and as this video show, it certainly was.

 

“At some point in time, everything in this world has a start and has a finish,” says Phippen, who years ago staged the first event as a humble fundraiser outside his business' property. “It was a very tough decision to make.”

Why now, we asked? “If you have an opportunity to go out with your original team and you can go out on a high note you should take it,” he advises. “We’ve had 15 amazing years.”

Phippen (a recipient of the Governor General’s Meritous Service Medal for his work on the event) says he’s been fielding calls from bikers all across Canada and the U.S since the news broke.

Bill Brookfield, a local who has participated in every one of the Freedom Rides since its inception, says he’s sad this will be his last ride, but notes he’s proud to have been involved and supported the event for so many years. “It's very difficult to explain what it feels like to be part of it,” he says. He recalls streets lined with people, holding signs, waving flags, thanking the bikers for coming north and supporting their communities and their families. “It's an emotional experience.”

Temiskaming Shores mayor, Carman Kidd is also sad to see an end to the festival—which benefits the region to the tune of $2.3 million. The city is an integral part of the reunion’s success, with massive amounts of coordination taking place behind the scenes. In the weeks ahead of the event, the city drains wet areas, packs and coats roadways for dust controls, patches potholes, and this year, paving a few kilometres of road that needed rehabilitation. City staff also look after other practical concerns like road closures and garbage collection.

The ride itself requires teamwork between various fire departments and the OPP, to block off all the intersections throughout the ride. Add to that the several hundred volunteers who look after registration, traffic control, souvenir sales, plus all the local businesses who sponsor the event with yellow road signs, and it seems like every citizen in the region is involved in some way.

Phippen had said before the event, “This is going to be the biggest and best Bikers Reunion that people have ever seen, we did not cut back anywhere. We’ve got more bands, more entertainment, more vendors.”

But even though the event is over, we had a message to all the would be attendees, who've never been or riders who wished there could be just one more. And that message is #RideOn - with hundreds of kilometers of amazing touring routes (all catalogued on www.RideTheNorth.com) the ride really never needs to end. 

Click on any of the stories below to learn more about this truly special event:

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