Several thousand motorcycle enthusiasts, along with many friends, family members and area residents, gathered at the Magnolia Beach Plaza Truck Stop on Saturday to celebrate the Iron Warriors Motorcycle Club of Central’s annual signature event, the Blessing of the Bikes.

This year’s event marked the 15th anniversary of the gathering that combines prayer with a celebration of friendship and also raises money for the Dreams Come True Foundation.

Mike Hood, president of the Iron Warriors Club, said the day is significant on several levels.

“This ... gives us the opportunity to come together in friendship to celebrate a day of fun that also has a spiritual theme while serving a very worthy cause. This time of the year marks the beginning of the riding season, and we cherish the opportunity to have our riders pray together as they and their bikes are blessed,” he said.

The event’s highlight came at noon as Timmy Dixon, chaplain for the Iron Warriors Club, led the group in prayer for the safety of the men and women who spend the riding season on the road.

“We bless the bikes along with the riders," Iron Warriors treasurer Dean Lawrence said. "Motorways can be dangerous for bikers, and the Lord’s protection and wisdom are claimed on behalf of every local rider.”

Hood said all proceeds from the day’s event will be dedicated to Dreams Come True, a charity that grants wishes to children who are terminally ill. The Iron Warriors fund at least two Dreams Come True recipients each year, and Hood said the cost of one of the trips can range as high as $10,000 to $15,000.

The Iron Warriors Club draws it membership from active and retired law enforcement officers and firefighters. The club also is supported by a women’s auxiliary, the Side Arms, and an affiliate group of riders who are not police officers or firefighters.

In addition to support for Dreams Come True, the Iron Warriors assist firefighters and police officers, and their families, especially those who have been maimed or killed in the line of duty.

“We maintain a very close relationship with those who serve the public as firemen and policemen, and we are here to support them for the all the wonderful things that they do for our community,” Hood said.

Admission to the event is free; money is raised through fees for booths that sell food items and motorcycle-related gear. Additionally, silent and live auctions are conducted, and a raffle is held. The Side Arms conducted the raffle, which promised a first-place prize of $5,000. Hood said the auction items were all donated.

Music was provided throughout the day by area bands.

The Iron Warriors Motorcycle Club of Central counts about 30 active members, and Hood said the group is always looking for new members. The club meets monthly and sets up rides and special events that members enjoy together.

“We try to give our members as much ‘seat time’ as we can and to offer them interesting and fun activities. We share a special bond, our love for motorcycles and this holds us together,” he said.

In addition to the food and fundraisers, visitors to the Blessings could peruse a huge array of motorcycles that came in many different styles and colors. While the Harley-Davidsons dominated the scene, other motorcycles were counted among the numbers.

“This is a very special day for us. … It gives extra meaning to something that we all enjoy — riding our motorcycles," Hood said. "It’s a day of meeting and greeting, of joining together for a good cause and, most importantly, a time to reflect on the spiritual part of our lives. It’s what our club is all about.”