MAGOFFIN COUNTY – An annual bike ride will look a little different this year, with the Hillbilly Christmas in July to run through Magoffin County this year, as the group looks to raise money for the Shriners Hospital for Children in Lexington, KY.
This year the non-profit group is celebrating 16 years of Hillbilly Christmas in July, held the third weekend in July, with a revamped ride.
Jimmy Kinney, with Hillbilly Christmas in July, Inc., explained to Mortimer Media Group how the annual event began.
“This all started 16 years ago because the hospital needed some toys,” Kinney said. “Randy Jones and I got together and we wanted to do a little motorcycle ride to the Shriners hospital and we would take toys. All you had to do was bring a toy and we did the ride.”
That first year they transported more than 2,000 toys and raised $5,080 for the hospital.
“Coming back we thought this might be something we could get into we went to the Harley Store and checked on a motorcycle we could raffle. We did that and we ended up making $100,000 that year,” Kinney said.
Over time, they have ironed out the logistics and legalities for holding the raffle, giving out around a dozen or so new Harley Davidsons, with all of the money raised going to the Shriners Hospital to help the children and families treated there.
In the past 15 years, the group has donated $676,000 to the hospital and, with the help of Double Kwik, given over 50,000 new toys for them, as well.
“If you put a $10 value on each toy, that’s half a million dollars,” Kinney said, while trying to tally up how much they have raised.
He also noted that they raised over $300,000 to build a completely handicap-accessible playground in Pikeville at the Randy Jones Memorial Playground. They purchased a $27,100 van and gave it to El Hasa Shrine Temple to transport Eastern Kentucky children to the hospital.
As the group eyes the $2 million mark heavily going into this year’s event, Kinney said, “I think Hillbilly Christmas in July has been around 16 years and we’re still having fun.”
COVID-19, of course, knocked them out of being able to raise as much funds last year, with no location available to raffle tickets for the motorcycle.
“We came up two weeks prior to giving it away and we hadn’t sold enough tickets to pay for the bike,” Kinney said. “Everybody got together during those two weeks and it went super. We ended up taking $25,000 last year to the hospital, which was a miracle that happened.”
With this year’s bikes not coming out until January and being there are still limitations on where they could sell tickets, the group decided to not give away a motorcycle this year, but still wants to make this year’s event bigger than ever.
“We are a non-profit organization, but we want to take money to the hospital and we didn’t feel like this was something we could do to make money, so we elected not to do it this year,” Kinney said.
Instead of the bike raffle, Kinney explained that they are working to get all of the communities involved in the ride this year in order to make money.
While the event has always been a motorcycle ride, with as many as 800 motorcycles in one ride and 198 riding last year during the height of the pandemic, this year they are making the ride all-inclusive. Everyone is invited to ride, be it on motorcycles or in cars, Jeeps, classic or show cars.
“This is kind of getting to be a little joke around, where when we say ‘show cars and trucks,’ we mean show up and give us $25,” Kinney laughed. “That money will go to the hospital and we want to make it a large parade. We want to take in all of our local cities.”
On Saturday, July 17, there will be registration starting at 10 a.m. at the MineShaft Harley Davidson in Pikeville, and a “Kids Day in the Park” from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pikeville City Park. At 7 p.m. motorcycles, Jeeps, classic and show cars are invited to participate in a Ride around City Park for the kids, then they will have entertainment and food at Pikeville Riverfill.
On Sunday, July 18, starting at MineShaft Harley Davidson, in Pikeville, registration begins at 8 a.m., with the ride leaving Pikeville at 10 a.m. The fully-escorted ride will go through Coal Run, to Floyd County, break in Prestonsburg at Stone Crest, travel to Paintsville, take Rt. 40 to Magoffin County, leave back in Salyersville and take KY 114 back to Prestonsburg for lunch and activities at the Mountain Arts Center.
Kinney reminded the public this is not just a ride through Magoffin County, but also a ride that will help Magoffin Countians.
“Magoffin has 73 active patients going to Lexington Shriners Hospital, as of January,” Kinney said. “People don’t realize what we’re working for is actually touching the lives of children you have here.”
He also noted that if people can’t ride, the group should be going through Salyersville around 12:30 p.m. on July 18, inviting the public to come out and watch the parade.
“We want to make this something that will be around a while,” Kinney said. “We want this to be an annual event.”
Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd said he’s excited that the community can be involved in this event.
“It’s a privilege to be associated with [Kinney] and with this group,” Shepherd said. “That’s 73 kids from here. That’s amazing. It feels good to help them help the kids.”
In Hillbilly Christmas in July’s seven Eastern Kentucky counties they operate in, there are 1,100 children actively getting services from the Shriners Hospital.
For more information, follow the group on Facebook, or call 606-226-0726 or 606-205-5134.
The group, which has an active 501(c)3, has a website listed on the flier, at www.HillbillyChristmasinJuly.org, but the link appeared to be down at press time.