And one heck of a motorcyclist. Father Edwin “Fred” Frederick, one of Traverse City’s best-known advocates for the helpless and homeless, died 14 years ago.
But his legacy lives on in a beloved community event that honors the man as well as the legend.
LOST AND FOUND
Back in 1992, Don Pishney, the owner of Classic Motor Sports in Traverse City, teamed up with a dozen fellow motorcycle riders for a fun ride.
One of the riders suggested collecting a small fee from each participant, and donating it to Father Fred.
“Father Fred’s outreach covers a five-county area,” said Trent Tomlinson, director of the Northern Chapter of the Harley-Davidson Owners Group. “It’s such a positive thing, and it’s one of the very best functioning charities in the region.”
That first ride started at the dealer’s location on Blue Star Drive, with the riders aiming for a long cruise along the water.
“According to folklore, they got lost,” Tomlinson said. “But they didn’t realize how lost they were until they passed the same fisherman waving back to them three times in a row.”
Twenty-two years later, The Ride for Father Fred – a gathering of motorcyclists who trek down the road both for the sheer fun of it, and to help Father Fred’s charitable organization – is now wildly popular.
Open to crotch rockets, flatheads, and anything in between, the annual Ride contributes everything raised – the entry fee, tickets, money from sponsors – right to the Father Fred Foundation, as it always has.
But this year, the Ride features something new: a treasure map.
On each of the three routes, there will be stops and clues along the way in order to solve a puzzle and get to the treasure.
One main winner on each ride will be awarded a trophy, and there will be lots of additional prizes, including Harley merchandise and gas cards.
The three rides – one short, one long, and “the twisty” – allow riders to choose which most appeals to them and their abilities.
The long ride goes all the way to Northport, to Peterson Park overlooking the Manitou Islands. “The twisty” is for real cycle enthusiasts with a number of winding roads up the middle of Leelanau peninsula, Tomlinson said.
BORN TO BE CHARITABLE
At the end of the day Saturday, the riders will all head to Streeters for the Father Fred celebration around 5:30pm.
The main entertainment will start at 8pm with a touring band called Iron Snake, who bill themselves as “The Greatest ‘80s Hair Band in the Universe.”
On Sunday, the riders return for the “escorted ride,” which includes members of city and county law enforcement.
This special trek runs from Blue Star Drive up the east side of the Old Mission Peninsula to the lighthouse. The ride pivots along West Bay, and ends back at Streeters for a special Sunday brunch that welcomes all riders, sponsors, and guests.
“By and large, motorcycle riders are generous people,” Tomlinson said. “This is a way to give back to the community, and it has a lot of meaning to our particular group, because we’ve been doing this for so many years.”
While carrying on Father Fred’s cause is the main focus of the ride, the Sunday ride changeover, Tomlinson said, is one of his favorite parts of the whole weekend.
“At the turnaround, you realize you’re with a lot of fellow riders – we had over 450 last year – and you suddenly start passing hundreds of participating motorcyclists going back the other way,” he said. “It’s an amazing sight.”
The 2014 Ride for Father Fred departs from Classic Motor Sports, 3939 S. Blue Star Drive in Traverse City, on July 19 and 20. For more, visit rideforfatherfred.com or northernchapter.com.