ST. PETERSBURG — Minutes before the ground began to rumble outside Jim's Harley-Davidson dealership Sunday morning, Pamela Horrow was prepared.
The Tierra Verde resident had two stockings loaded with stuffed animals and toys for kids along Sunday's parade path. And her dog, Harley, was curled up in the sidecar of her Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.
"It's heartwarming to see the results of this," said Horrow, who has participated in the annual toy run several years. "They make a lot of children happy."
For more 30 years, local bikers have been collecting toys for kids and roaring through Pinellas County streets. Jamilou Rosenkrans and her husband, Jim, started the toy run in 1979 when she was a teacher at Skyview Elementary School. Jim Rosenkrans, a retired St. Petersburg firefighter and owner of the shop, died in 1988. Jamilou took over the business and continued the toy run in his memory.
The Jim Rosenkrans Memorial Toy Run provides food and toys for local families and financial support for 10 Pinellas County schools. Bikers bring a toy or contribute $15 to participate. They also bring hundreds of pounds of canned food.
The toys and food are distributed by the schools, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center. All of the funds raised by the event, including those from beer sales and a silent auction, go to the schools, said Jeremy Coad, the dealership's marketing manager.
Over the years, organizers say they've raised more than $1 million for Pinellas County schools. Last year, the toy run raised more than $24,000. It will take a few days before they have a final tally for Sunday's toy run, Coad said.
Years ago, the event started small, with just 12 bikes, recalled Rosenkrans. This year, 2,216 people participated on 1,480 motorcycles.
"It brings tears to my eyes," said Rosenkrans, 68, looking out at the sea of people and bikes in her store's parking lot Sunday morning.
Seconds later, she strapped on her helmet, jumped on her Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Convertible, and led the parade down 54th Avenue N.
The route wended through St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Pass-a-Grille. Bikers circled back to the shop for an after party.
Some bikers accessorized their leather and denim with Santa hats and antlers. Others decorated their bikes with garlands and wreaths.
About 10:15 a.m., just after the run began, Melinda Hitch stood on the side of 54th Avenue waving to bikers as they zoomed past her. She was one of hundreds of people lined up along the street as riders roared by tossing beads and toys to the crowd.
Her husband, who died nine years ago, used to ride in the event. Hitch, 51, who lives a few blocks away from the shop, likes to watch the parade every year.
"It's a memory of him," Hitch said.
Reach Lorri Helfand at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445- 4155.