Although motorcycles and ministry might seem an unlikely combination to some, it's the concept that sparked last year's first Strawberry Lake Motorcycle Rally -- and it's coming back this summer for another ride.
From Friday, July 31, through Sunday, Aug. 2, the Strawberry Lake Christian Retreat Camp will again open its grounds to bikers...and anyone else they want to bring along.
"First and foremost we're a family based event," said Howard Elijah, who has been integral in putting the rally together, and also designed its logo.
"Biker events aren't typically family friendly," said event coordinator Michael Walther.
Having both attended typical motorcycle rallies, Elijah and Walther realized the need for a biker rally in an environment they could bring their families to without any worries about drugs or safety or alcohol.
The rally's mission statement decrees that its intent is to not only provide a fun and secure location, but to offer an opportunity to pursue a closer walk with God in an open environment where no one will be hassled by other believers.
"This is a distinctly Christian event," Walther said.
Beyond that, "we're like any motorcycle rally," Elijah added.
Although the biker community is made up of many smaller branches, the Strawberry Lake Rally invites them all to come and enjoy the lake, activities, and company together. "What's unique about our event is that we're not dominated by any one group."
Although meshing together the diverse showing at last year's rally might have been a tricky task, Walther witnessed a "remarkable" degree of respect in the relationships formed between extremely separate sorts of people.
"There were three-piece patches (motorcycle patch club members) hanging out with three-piece suits," he said, smiling.
The rally will include a bike show, motorcycle games and a Memorial Ride, as well as great music and open jam sessions. Last year's speakers, Dove Morgan of Loving Hearts Ministry and Ulf Manneback of Europe's Church on Wheels, both of whom have touched many lives with their stories of redemption, will return to speak at the weekend's services.
"They're the same speakers -- not the same speeches," Elijah said with a grin.
The SkyBlues Band, which began as a group of musicians getting together for jam sessions and is now mostly made up of Walther's family, will play at the rally. Vincent and the Van-Goes will also perform their self-defined mix of "blues, rockabilly, surf and stuff."
"People are welcome to come for the whole event or the partial event," Elijah said.
"As much or as little as you want -- that's just how biker events are," Walther added.
Strawberry Lake Retreat, located 25 miles north of Detroit Lakes, will provide their full facilities, including hotel rooms, tent sites, RV hookups, and access to a gorgeous lake, all at reasonable rates. Since accommodations are limited, and earlier registration makes for easier coordination, it is recommended that anyone interested set up their stay as soon as possible.
To book, visit www.strawberrylake.org. Also, to check out the weekend's full schedule, read the Mission Statement, learn more about guest bands and speakers, or access contact information, navigate over to www.strawberrylakerally.com.
"We had a blast last year," Elijah said. "We'll keep going as long as people keep showing up."