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.”