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Boots On The Ground

By Raven Van Pelt

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The American Legion Riders Chapter 9, with their host partner Flamingo Lake RV Resort, in support of American Gold Star Mothers, Inc., hosted the 3rd Annual Boots on the Ground Poker Run and Concert.  The purpose of the annual event is to honor the mothers of America’s Fallen Warriors and provide financial resources to aid American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. (AGSM) in fulfilling their Gold Star National Monument Foundation Program. Last year’s event had over 500 riders and 1,000 attending overall and this year’s event was much larger with over 886 riders.

Over 2,500 Military Combat Boots lined the entryways and parking lots of the event, each one prominently displaying an American Flag and Fallen Warrior’s picture to include their service, rank, name, age, hometown, date of death and conflict.  The boots are part of the American Legion Riders Chapter 9 Memorial “Boots on the Ground ~ America Remembers”. Visually, it reminds each of us that FREEDOM TRULY ISN’T FREE!

Registration began at 8:30 am with the Studio One Band playing blues and southern rock for the opening ceremonies. The event had a Military Vehicle Display, Civil War artillery demonstrations and extreme 4×4 golf cart rides for the kids. Naval Air Station Jacksonville Honor Support Team presented the Colors and conducted a gun salute to honor and memorialize our Fallen Heroes. KSU was at 11:00 am as the bikes paraded through the resort and then rode throughout the Jacksonville and Nassau County areas stopping at various American Legion Posts and Veteran of Foreign Wars Posts. Last Bike In was at 5:00 pm. There were dozens of retail vendors on site selling the latest and greatest biker gear and apparel as well as other great merchandise.

As the non-riding public was invited to the event, and came out in force, the band Home Grown came on around 2:30 pm and played some great classic and southern rock and then the band Second Shot, with special guest Dave Hlubek from Molly Hatchet, rounded the night out from 6 pm until the city shut us down around 10 pm.
Riders were provided a BBQ dinner with their registration and the many volunteers that came out to support the event were fed as well. There were hundreds of raffles and door prizes as well as a 50/50. I must say that of all the Poker Runs I have been to, this event is the largest and best organized single day Poker Run event I have ever seen. It is like a mini Bike Week but fun for the whole family. This event will always be held Mother’s Day weekend and I highly recommend all riders mark their calendars and come to Jacksonville to attend this event. You will not be disappointed.

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