BROOKSVILLE — It's one of those events that's chock-full of stories every year, which is something one might expect from a three-day gathering of bikers in a 40-acre pasture.
However, Jimmy "J.O." Batten, who promotes the annual Brooksville Old Fashion Biker Rodeo on his ranch east of Brooksville, says this weekend's event will be his last.
At least for now.
For 10 years, Batten has played host to the area's largest annual biker gathering, and he says the event has raised more than $200,000 for local veterans charities. But he thinks the idea has played itself out.
"It's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work, too," Batten said. "I'm not saying I'm not doing another event, but we've come to a fork in the road. Anything I do from now on, we'll have to call it something else."
Through the years, the annual motorcycle camp-in on Batten's land on Soult Road built a reputation as a lively, raucous gathering where chrome pipes, beer, tattoos and skimpy halter tops are admired with fervor. Though not always popular with neighbors who prefer peace and quiet to the roar of Harleys and loud rock 'n' roll, Batten insists that the event has never been a free-for-all.
"It's a lot tamer than a lot of people imagine it is," he said. "But then, people are always going to think what they want to think."
Indeed, the early days saw Batten trying his best to convince county commissioners to grant him a permit to hold the event. Some winced when they saw photographs of bare-breasted women cavorting on the backs of motorcycles. A former Marine, Batten proved that bikers were a giving bunch of folks who are always willing to support worthy causes.
Each year after the event, the DD-214 Foundation that Batten helped form with friends presents a check to Marine Corps League Detachment 708 in Hernando County, which administers a fund that pays for things such as rent and mortgage payments, food, utility bills and other needs of veterans.
"It's a phenomenal thing that he and his group does," said detachment commander Frank Glassford. "About 99 percent of what we distribute to veterans every year comes from Jimmy and his group."
Batten expects the farewell event, which begins today and continues Friday and Saturday, will draw upward of 3,500 people.
"I think it's going to the best one we've ever had," he said. "It's been a fun ride."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.