Hop on the Harley and let’s go for a ride!

Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Rolling Thunder National will host its 34th Annual “Ride for Freedom” on Sunday, May 29 at the Hunterdon County 4-H Fairgrounds on Route 179 in West Amwell.

Rolling Thunder President, Tom D’Alessio said the ride started 34 years ago by a group of Vietnam veterans who were concerned that the federal government was not doing anything to identify and bring home the remains of Missing in Actions (MIAs) and Prisoners of War (POWs) from Vietnam.

Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
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So, they started a protest demonstration in Washington, D.C., that grew to more than a million people in attendance.

About three years ago, Rolling Thunder National decided they could get the message out better to more politicians and to the public by having individual events in different states, he said.

Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
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Currently, there are 80 chapters in 40 states. D’Alessio said there are 20 events happening across the country this year in the Carolinas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, New England, South Dakota, Washington, and of course in New Jersey in East Amwell this weekend.

The goal of the ride is to raise awareness and to keep the government active in finding and bringing back the remains of the 80,000 plus MIAS for the last hundred years.

D’Alessio said motorcyclists will assemble at the fairgrounds at 7 a.m.  Admission is $10 per vehicle and the parking is free. There will be musical tributes to veterans and speeches. Then at noon, hundreds of motorcyclists will take off on a 30-mile ride through the historic New Jersey countryside, through Lambertville, Washingtons Crossing, and up across the other side of the Delaware into Pennsylvania.

Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
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After the ride there will be live rock n’ roll music at the fairgrounds, and great food trucks. Picnics are also welcome but no alcoholic beverages. Plus, there will be plenty of parking for both motorcycles and cars.

“This year we’re expecting good weather. We’re expecting a good crowd,” he said. Last year, about 400 motorcycles took part in the “Ride for Freedom.” D’Alessio said the weather was not in their favor. It was cold, wet and rainy but still, hundreds of bikers showed up for a good cause.

This year, he hopes to have between 500 and 1,000 motorcycles take part, especially since the weather looks to be on their side.

Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
Rolling Thunder National's 34th Annual Ride for Freedom (Photo Credit: Rolling Thunder National)
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D’Alessio said he knows bikers will be showing up from all over New Jersey, Staten Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and some as far north as Canada.

Rolling Thunder National consists of veterans, non-vets, motorcyclists, non-riders, men and women. But D’Alessio said there is only one requirement: They must be interested in helping veterans and the plight of veterans and their families.

There are about 6,000 to 8,000 members across the country. They do charitable work and lobby the state and federal government concerning veterans’ issues.

“We are committed to bettering their lives, and we will never forget the sacrifices they made in defense of their country,” said D’Alessio.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at jennifer.ursillo@townsquaremedia.com

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