Nonprofits

Top Hatters Host 23rd Annual Bike Blessing at Sacred Heart Church

More than 1,400 bikers gather in Hollister for annual bike blessing
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The Hollister Top Hatters hosted their 23rd Annual Bike Blessing at Sacred Heart Church on March 20. More than 1,400 bikers attended, rolling through the area with the sunny Palm Sunday weather as their backdrop.

“It’s probably the largest bike blessing here in Northern California. You get a lot of people from Santa Clara, Monterey, and even the valley,” said Bob “Sideshow” Poelker, coordinator for the Bike Blessing. “They come to the bike blessing and stay overnight.”

“We’re asking God’s blessings on the people and that they ride safely on their bikes,” said Rev. Ardyss Golden, who presided over the blessing. 

“You are messengers on the bike out there,” said Fr. Ranier during the indoor portion of the ceremony at Sacred Heart Church. “I want to tell you to travel safely. Be safe for yourself and for others out there.” He drew laughs from the congregation as he continued in jest about yearly expirations on the blessings and saying, “Our blessing cannot do anything if you drive 95 miles per hour. Blessings will only work at the speed limit. Just drive safely.”

“We hope on this day as we bless the palms and the medals, that you will care for them and know that God is truly watching over you this day,” said Golden, who is a retired clergy person from Hollister Methodist Church.

The free event featured an indoor reading of the Royal Welcome by Golden and a prayer by Fr. Ranier. Then the gathered bikers headed outside to ride under palm arches and receive blessings from Golden and Ranier. 

“When they come through the arch and we bless the bikes, we’re blessing them for a safe journey,” said Golden.

A paid after party raised funds for the Top Hatter’s charitable involvement in the community pantry and scholarships. “We have two scholarships that we give away every year, and this is a big part of us helping to get that money for those scholarships,” Poelker said. “It’s great for us because this is something we can provide for the community,” said Poelker. He added that all the visiting bikers are great for the local economy. Regarding the attendance, he said, “I think sometimes it has to do with the weather because it was supposed to rain this evening. It was still a great turnout.” He called the sunny weather a blessing after two prior weekends of downpour. “My prayers have been answered. It’s a beautiful day. So you know what? It’s a blessing.”

The gathering of bikers from many regions was mirrored in the religious aspects of the ceremony coming from different backgrounds. “It’s very much an honor for me to be able to participate in the service,” said Golden. “Especially to read the Gospel as a United Methodist pastor in a Catholic church. It shows that we’re really working to come together as people of God.”

Golden, who has been a part of the blessings for the past 18 years, went on to say, “We don’t make labels on each other anymore.” As a non-biker who has a ranching and equestrian background, Golden showed off her vest. “The Top Hatters gave me this vest and it’s a blessing for me because it lets me blend in with them. Because originally we were out here in our robes.” 

Golden explained the significance of the Royal Welcome, saying, “Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and these folks are going to go out on their bikes and they can share the word of God with so many more people than the rest of us, because they go all sorts of other places.” She went on to say, “We’re blessing these palm branches to continue this journey with Jesus. That’s what we’re on. This is the first day of Holy Week, so we’re on a journey with Jesus and the resurrection.”

“The Top Hatters thank the community for all they do and we’re there to support the community,” said Poelker.

More information about the Top Hatters can be found at tophatters-mc.com.

Sean Roney

Sean is a writer and photographer from California’s Central Coast. He began reporting for BenitoLink in 2015. Sean received his BA in communication from CSU Monterey Bay and he has covered news stories in San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Clara counties. He enjoys traveling California to meet interesting people as well as visit breathtaking places, and is always happy to sit down and share stories. In his free time, Sean enjoys cycling, bikepacking, and novel writing.