Almost 1,300 people took part in the 16th annual Pearly Gates Veterans Ride today.
Proceeds from the event will benefit several local veteran programs.
“In 16 years we’ve raised over a few million dollars for local veterans’ organizations,” says Pearly Gates Bar and Grille owner and event organizer Jeff Fonferek.
The organizers tell us that this event raises about $ 100,000 each year. Pearly Gates raises approximately $ 150,000 annually for veterans through all of the events they host
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More than 30 local veterans’ organizations benefit from the ride. The most important are:
Vietnam Veterans Chapter 224, Combat Motorcycle Veterans Association, Honor and Valor Outdoors, The Brown County Veterans Services Fund, Disabled American Veterans, the Brown County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit, and the NEW homeless shelter.
We were told that there were 768 motorcycles, 175 cars, and 338 passengers in the motorcycles or cars at this year’s Pearly Gates Veterans Ride.
“Just to be part of this hectic pace, be part of this journey. It’s phenomenal, ”says Vietnam War veteran Bob Wiedenhaft.
Wiedenhaft says that he attended the event every year.
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The event also includes a military ceremony. Just before the military ceremony begins, a bus with older veterans pulls up. Some of the younger veterans escort the older veterans to VIP seating while the crowd gave them a standing ovation.
The military ceremony includes a fly over, 21 gun salutes, singing the national anthem, playing taps, and a color guard. Each veteran present received a challenge coin as a thank you for their work.
“It is a tearful flow, when the ceremony begins, not a single eye in the crowd stays dry,” says Wiedenhaft.
Tom Zalaski from Local Five led the ceremony.
“We can look in the eyes of the people who have served, some of them are wounded inside and out, and we have the opportunity to say thank you for our freedom,” says Zalaski.
After the ceremony was over, the veterans jumped on their motorcycles or in their cars, turned on their engines, and went in procession to Maribel. They left the city under a huge American flag hanging on a fire truck. Green Bay Metro Fire and DePere Fire provided the flag.
Participants stayed in Maribel for a few hours before returning to Green Bay for the night with food, drinks, live music and dancing.