Calling all bikers - it's Toy Run time again!
Most South African motorcyclists ride purely for pleasure - but now it's time to get serious.
Once a year more than 50 000 bikers all over Southern Africa come together to take part in mass rides in more than 20 centres across South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland.
And it's all for children - disadvantaged children in homes and hospices and unfunded child-care centres, children for whom Christmas would otherwise be just the quietest, loneliest day of the year, thousands of children without parents and children whose parents are too mired in grinding poverty to even think of Christmas.
For 26 years the last Sunday of November has been the date of the Toy Run. Whether they're riding scooters or scramblers, superbikes or delivery bikes, vintage machines or V-twins - they'll have one thing in common: they'll be festooned with toys.
You don't have to be a motorcyclist to be part of the Toy Run; join the party at the nearest Toy Run venue and experience for yourself the camaraderie of those who choose to travel on two wheels rather than four - just bring toys!
The GAUTENG Toy Run, by far the biggest, will start from Silverton Midas in Pretoria and Steeledale Hyper at 8.45am, a new start venue at Greenstone Mall in Edenvale at 9am, the Brightwater Commons at 9.15am and the Westgate shopping centre at 9.40.
More than 22 000 motorcycles will converge on the Nasrec expo centre, their bikes festooned with toys of all descriptions - more than 30 000 Barbie dolls, cricket bats, big red fire engines and teddy bears by the thousand.
At Nasrec there will be helicopter flips, dyno tuning, trade stalls, food and beverage stalls, live music and, of course, Toy Run memorabilia for sale.
And that's not all - off-road riders will gather at Dirt Bronco in Krugersdorp for a 45km trail ride through the wild, wild south and an even wilder party back at the start venue with live music aboard the Gig Rig and food, beverages and badges for sale - just bring toys.
For more information call Sean Fine on (083) 400-0214 or (072) 129-7511.
The 2008 CAPE TOWN Toy Run will start at 9.45am from Ratanga Junction and at 10.15am from Ottery Hypermarket, merging at Settler's way and continuing down Union Avenue to the end venue at Maynardville.
The Ottery run will be led by the mayor, Helen Zille, riding pillion on the Harley-Davidson of Toy Run Trust chairman Rodney Ford.
At Maynardville riders will be able to visit dozens of trade and food stalls, enter the lucky draw raffle, check out the concours entries and listen to live band Joe Public and comedy star Kurt Schoenraad, hosted by Mike "The Mike" Clarke and Heart 94.9 FM presenter Brandon Leigh.
Guests are welcome - just bring toys. For more details call Rodney Ford on (021) 703-8121.
In DURBAN the Toy Run will start from the Pavilion in Westville at 9.30am sharp; the riders will proceed along the N3 and N2 to Amanzimtoti and the Lords and Legends cricket ground.
Much of the ride will be on freeways so no Pee-Wees, off-road machines or quads will be allowed and helmets will be compulsory.
There will be trade stalls, food stalls and a concours competition at the end venue, with live music by local band DV8.
Perhaps more important, though, on this special day, there will be clowns and jumping castles for the children and the toys will be handed over to the selected charities right there, on the day.
The presidents of the participating clubs will also be auctioned off; whichever one attracts the highest bid gets to choose the charity which will receive all the bids.
Contact Les (083) 487-6846 or Jo Boes (083) 285-0815 for more information.
PORT ELIZABETH'S Toy Runners will meet at Dyson's Honda in Heugh Road, Walmer to leave at 10am. The run will follow Heugh Road, the N4 freeway, Mount Road, Cape Road, William Moffet Road, Buffelsfontein Road and Skoenmaker's Kop Road to the Rover motocross circuit.
Off-road riders will meet at the Boardwalk to leave at 9am on a bush ride to meet up with the "road warriors" at the motocross circuit.
Riders and non-riders alike are welcome at the end venue. The R20 per person entry will also get you into the lucky draw for prizes - including a motorcycle - worth a total of R80 000.
There will be food and beverages available, bike displays, trade stalls and competitions, and off-road racing on the circuit.
On the day before the Toy Run the convenors will host 300 children at the Boardwalk, each sponsored by an individual rider for a gift to the value of R150.
For more details call Tony Halket on (082) 568-0682.
The EAST LONDON Toy Run - one of the few that has no support from the local traffic authorities - will start at 9am from the War Memorial in Oxford Street for a short ride to the Gonubie Farmers' Hall, where 300 children from homes and hospices in and around East London will be treated to rides on miniature steam trains, jumping castles and face painting.
The Cambridge Lions will provide hot dogs for the children, the bike clubs will sponsor cold drinks and sweets and, of course, a toy for each child.
Talk to Louis Myburgh at (082) 660-6260 for more details.
BLOEMFONTEIN Toy Runners will gather at Builder's Warehouse at Showgate from 8am and the mass ride will start at 10am. It will end at the 1 Special Services Battalion lapa in Tempe military base, where refreshments will be on sale.
AIMING FOR 1000
Riders will have the choice of bringing a toy for a disadvantaged child or making a R50 donation - which will also get them a badge and a T-shirt each and enter them in the lucky draw.
685 riders turned out for the 2007 Bloemfontein Toy Run - this year the convenors are aiming for 1000. Non-riders are also welcome to join the party at Tempe from 11am onwards - just bring toys!
More details from Johan Otto at (082) 576-4288.
Riders on the NELSPRUIT Toy Run will meet at the Crossing Superspar from 8am and the mass ride to Oewersig Municipal Resort will leave at 9.30am. The entrance fee will be a toy or stationery, clothing or even non-perishable food items for disadvantaged children.
There will be live music, food and refreshments at the end venue; Round Table will man the beer garden, and will collect and distribute the gifts.
For more information call Russell (083) 227-8618 or Marieta Drechenmacher (072) 203-5467.
The GEORGE Toy Run will start from the old Game car park in George at 10am and end at the Mossel Bay Boat Club.
IT'S A RIDE!
Organiser Eddie Creed says it's all about the children, rather than a bikers' party. About 150 kids from homes and hospices in the area will be treated to skydivers, puppet shows, jumping castles and a visit by Father Christmas.
Contact Creed on (082) 895-9796 for more details.
The HEIDELBERG, CAPE Toy Run will be really different. With only about 30 bikes involved, it's not a procession - it's a ride!
The riders will leave from Buffeljagsrivier on the N2 at 10am, ride to the Swellendam hospital, then on to Montagu and Barrydale for lunch at the Country Pumpkin. South Africa's longest Toy Run - all 200km of it! - will end at the Riversdale Hospital.
Toys will be handed over to patients and trauma units at each hospital along the way and the remainder will be donated to police station trauma rooms.
Talk to Blackie Swart on (073) 252-5007 for more details.
Riders from all over Limpopo province and as far away as Pretoria will converge on the Ronwil resort for the BELA BELA Toy Run. This is one of the youngest Toy Runs - it was first held in 2007 and attracted 600 motorcycles that year.
This year's edition is expected to be even bigger and Think Bike! in Pretoria has agreed to provide marshals.
From 10am there will be live music, food and drink on sale - and a lucky draw. Everybody's welcome, including non-riders - just bring toys.
Contact Chris Briel on (082) 578-4188 for details.
The VANDERBIJLPARK Toy run will be held this weekend, on Sunday, November 23, so Vanderbijlpark riders will also be able to ride in the huge Gauteng Toy Run on November 30,
It will start from the Centurions club house in Shakespeare Street, meeting at 9am with the mass ride leaving at 10am.
The ride will end at Pick 'n Pay in Bedwith Park., where there will live music, food, liquid refreshments, trade displays, a concours competition, the election of Miss Toy Run and a lucky draw.
More information from Adolph Klingenburg on (072) 227-4070.
The RICHARDS BAY Toy Run will also be held a week early, on Sunday, November 23, because a number of northern kwaZulu-Natal riders will be trekking south for the Durban Toy Run on the 30th.
Riders will gather at the CMA Bikers'' Church in Alton from 7.30am and the mass ride will start at 8am. It will take riders along 25km of brand new road through the Obenjeni Reserve to the Obenjeni District School, where the toys will be handed out directly by the riders to local children.
Food and drink will available for riders at the school. If you want to know more, ask Gianmarco on (0820 565-2013.
At least two more Toy Runs have already been held in order to distribute the toys in time for Christmas parties at various institutions across the country - we hope to have details of those as well in our complete report on the Toy Run on Monday, December 1.