The annual Christmas Toy Run celebrates its 30th year with 2014’s event on November 29, representing three decades of ensuring a merry Christmas for local children.
Each year, a fleet of cars and bikes sets out around the region on the last Saturday of November, collecting toys and donations which are brought back to a local welfare agency for distribution at Christmas.
The Toy Run started with the formation of the local Bikers Unlimited group, for those who liked to ride but weren’t involved in motorcycle clubs.
Bikers Unlimited member Bob “Mutha” Mackie suggested that the group improve the image of bike riders by organising a toy run to ensure that Christmas morning is special for every child.
The ladies held a street stall and one man sold groceries from a wheelbarrow to raise funds, and the ride on the day concluded with a party at the Lue Hotel, where $5 entry included a hamburger and a beer.
Over the years, the Toy Run gained support from local business owners including Mr Kellett and Mr Brackenrig, and in the 1990s, a bike show became a regular feature.
Riders join in from around the region, from Rylstone and Kandos to Dunedoo and Coolah, and the tour even once picked up a few Irish riders who were passing through the region and hadn’t known the event was happening.
While there had been a few wet years, the event has never yet been rained out, with the sun sometimes appearing right on time to start the day.
The route changes annually, with the riders pulling up in different communities and contributing to the local economy with their patronage while they collect toys to take back to base.
It concludes each year in a different part of the region, with food, drink and music.
The Toy Run is an annual reunion for many of the riders, and Mackie still returns to ride each year.
“I just think a lot of people like to go for a ride, get together, catch up,” said Carol Budd.
Ms Budd said the Salvation Army had helped her years earlier when she was down on her luck in Sydney, so she was one of those who was eager to help from the beginning.
With the closure of the Salvation Army last year, St Vincent de Paul began accepting and distributing the toys, which organisers said made a smooth and satisfying transition.
The St Vincent’s volunteers even served cakes and coffee to start the day.
While the crowd has greyed a little since the first Toy Run 30 years ago, Ms Budd said it hadn’t dampened their enthusiasm at all, but only meant they might go to bed a little earlier - although they might not.
The event now raises $2000 to $3000 each year, while the publication of a calendar one year pushed the result up to $5000.
This year, organisers hope to bring back some of the old faces who have been involved in the event over its 30 years, some of whom have moved on from Mudgee or are no longer involved with motorbikes.
All riders and drivers are invited to ensure their engines are ready for the run on November 29.
Donations of gifts will be welcome, and organisers ask for new items in good condition, with special need for older children’s gifts, which can range from a cricket set to useful school equipment.