West Coast Thunder XX is ready to roll

Eric Dehm
May 17, 2019 - 12:02 pm
West Coast Thunder XIX in 2018

Photo by Nirav Solanki courtesy West Coast Thunder

They say everyone loves a parade, and the crowds at this one every year seem to prove it.

When the 20th annual West Coast Thunder (WCT) motorcycle rally takes place on Memorial Day in Riverside, Calif., it's expected that up to 50,000 spectators will line the route from Riverside Harley-Davidson to the Riverside National Cemetery. When the crowds are taking in the thousands of bikes rolling along in tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, many of them won't be aware that it all started smaller – much smaller.

"Back in 2000, there were 6 or 7 friends that rode out to the cemetery on Memorial Day," said WCT President Mitch Levine during an appearance on the Eye on Veterans radio show. "And they thought 'Wow this is a great idea, we need to do this yearly and get more people involved' ... and from there it's grown into the monster it's become now with between five to seven thousand motorcycles fully escorted through the city of Riverside." 

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While the parade is what brings in the crowds, the event is about much more than putting on a show, according to Levine. WCT charges a registration fee to riders, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Riverside National Cemetery support committee, which Levine says is among the busiest in the country.

Levine himself has been volunteering with WCT for 16 years. The son of a Korean War vet, he sees the rally as a way to give back to the veteran community, and invites anyone else who'd like to do so to join in the fun.

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"I didn't have the honor to serve," Levine said. "But I thought what better way to honor our veterans and help support money for those who gave their all."

West Coast Thunder XX begins bright and early on Memorial Day with bike staging at Riverside Harley-Davidson at 6 a.m. and a 9:11 start time for the parade. The parade will be followed by a party and concert headlined by country music artist Randy Houser. 

You can hear the full interview with Mitch Levine below. 

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