By MARGIE NETZEL - firstname.lastname@example.org
PAINESVILLE — Edward Tacacs’ voice started out strong as he read a poem written by friend Jesse Stroud, but somewhere in the middle the seasoned biker nearly lost his voice — the words written in front of him swam in the tears he struggled to hold back.
The honor of reading a dead man’s words became too much of a burden on his vocal chords.
“I knew Jesse, he was one of my best friends,” Tacacs said. “To read this poem for him today was an honor I can’t express. It just means so much to me.”
Tacacs read his friend’s poem to thousands of bikers on Sunday at the 30th annual Louie Run, held at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Painesville.
Named to honor the late Louie Ivcovic, a nonriding member of the biker community who owned the popular Peppermint Stick Lounge, an establishment in Mentor open to bikers, the Louie Run is known as the official opening event of northeast Ohio’s riding season.
The Louie Run was first held at Ivcovic’s graveside in 1983. The Louie Run raises money to benefit families of those who died or were injured in motorcycle accidents.
Joyce Di Donato’s face grew solemn in the spring sunshine as she listened to the 340 names of friends, family, comrades, who died in motorcycle accidents on Ohio roadways.
“We come every year,” she said. “We have way too many family and friends on the memorial wall.”
Debbi Dorsey of Richfield attended the first Louie Run. She returns year after year to see the memorial wall and remember those who were lost.
“I thought back then, at the first run, that it was a nice tribute to people who ride, especially because that was a time when not everyone welcomed bikers,” she said. “Bars hung signs that said ‘no colors’ meaning no bikers. But Louie was different. He treated us with respect.”
Louie Run chairman Mike “Redbeard” Warren said he was pleased with the nice weather and large biker turnout, even though he realizes that some people come to remember the dead and others come to the run to party.
“I read 340 names today,” he said. “My voice is giving out. I know that there are 2,500 people who come when it is pouring rain, they come when it’s cold. They come no matter what because it means something to them. So we know some people come for the party and that’s OK because the Louie Run still holds so much meaning for so many people.”
Dorsey said the feeling of the first event still runs through the Louie Run three decades later.
“There is a camaraderie here that you don’t find everywhere,” she said. “This is group of people who have come a long way, but they still get looked over by society for a lot of reasons, no matter how much good they do in their communities. We are still working to fix that judgment.”