Thousands make pilgrimage for motorcycle blessing
Motorcyclists gathered for the weekend at the Great North Woods Ride-In, which ran Friday through Sunday and included a motorcycle rodeo, biker's ball, bike show, and parade.
The highlight of the Ride-In came Sunday, when thousands of bikers gathered on the grounds of the Shrine to receive a motorcyclist's blessing before heading home.
A.J. and Linda Hopey rode four hours from Newmarket for the weekend's events, but came especially for the blessing.
“We come because the blessing from our Superior Being is just one more thing to protect us and we need all the protection we can get from unforeseen obstacles,” A.J. said.
A.J. has attended the blessing since it was held at its former site in Enfield. He followed when the event moved to Our Lady of Grace Shrine.
Linda said the blessing is something she feels she needs to do every year.
“If I miss this one for some reason,” she said. “I go to the one in Epping — it's that important.”
A helicopter whirred overhead offering scenic tours of the area and the sound mixed with the low rumble of motorcycles as machines filled the 25-acre Shrine.
Bikers gathered in the bright sunshine, talked with old friends, and made new ones as they explored the Shrine and its more than 50 granite and marble memorials.
When time grew closer for the blessing, the motorcyclists gathered to remember those who no longer ride the roads.
Two men actively involved with the Blessing of the Bikes since its beginning, William Donahue and Richard Brown, were remembered with the dedication of a granite headstone donated by Nicoletti Memorials of Berlin.
Gail Tattan-Giampaola, director of Northwoods Home Health and Hospice, led a time of reflection, and then more than 120 names of lost loved ones were read, moving many to tears.
At the end of the reading, families released orange-and-black Monarch butterflies.
Benediction and a time of prayer followed. Then Father Robert Levesque gave the motorcyclists' blessing and told the crowd, “If you have the Lord riding with you, you're all set, man!”
Riders lined up in colorful double rows heading north and south to receive individual blessings and sprinkles of holy water as they headed out.
The Blessing of the Bikes is held every year on the weekend following Father's Day and all proceeds go to the upkeep of the Shrine.
For more information, go to nhblessingofthebikes.tripod.com.
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