The Wichita Toy Run — back for its 33rd year this weekend — has a few changes.
After more than three decades operating in a parade format, the annual fundraiser will now be a stationary event, offering a variety of activities for motorcyclists and others on Sunday in Wichita’s historic Delano District.
The change also means another adjustment: “rally” has been has been tacked onto the event’s name, said Terisa Olson, a Toy Run organizer.
“It’s about providing to the community and the kids, who we want to give a Christmas to,” Olson said. “… We’re excited. It’s been six months in planning and everyone has worked very hard.”
The toy run and rally starts at 11 a.m. on Douglas between McLean and Seneca. Motorcyclists can enter Douglas, which will be closed to traffic, at Sycamore. Parking for other vehicles and a shuttle service will be available at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Activities include prize drawings, a motorcycle giveaway, vendor displays, a $5 chili feed and live music. There will also be a contest for the best Christmas-decorated bike, a motorcycle accessories fashion show, a riding exhibition and an appearance by an Arrow Wrecker Service truck painted like Mater, a character from the Pixar movie “Cars.”
Santa arrives at noon.
Participants are asked to donate cash or a new, unwrapped toy, which will be collected at a tent at Douglas and Osage. Toys may also be dropped off Miller’s Dry Cleaners locations in Wichita through Sunday.
Proceeds benefit U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, the Salvation Army and the Kansas Food Bank.
Former Toy Run organizer Holly Potelle, who was killed in June while riding her motorcycle, will also be honored at this year’s event. Commemorative T-shirts and buttons featuring holly leaves and berries – representing her 32 years with the toy run – will be for sale Sunday.
Safety concerns prompted the format change, Olson said, which was announced in July by event organizers. In recent years as participation neared 3,000 riders, intoxication, inexperience and accidents – including two last year that injured to four people – have hampered the event.
“It’s grown and it’s involved so many motorcycles and covered such a long distance that logistically it was hard to keep it safe both for the organizers and for the law enforcement,” Wichita police Capt. Russell Leeds told The Eagle in July. “There’s no way we could manage that many bikes or control the behavior of all those riders once the procession started.”
Olson said some are disappointed the annual parade from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to the Kansas Coliseum is gone, “but there are a lot of people who don’t have motorcycles that are excited that they can participate now.”