Hospice of the Red River Valley has had a huge impact on lakes area residents since it came to be in 1981 — as evidenced by the fact that not just one, but two memorial events set for this weekend were established to benefit the local nonprofit: Ole's Ride and J.J.'s Hog Roast.
Ole's Ride Saturday in Vergas
The 10th annual Ole’s Ride is Saturday, Aug. 24. The event was originally established in 2010 to benefit Vergas resident Richard "Ole" Barten, who was battling cancer.
"My husband had cancer when he was 48 years old, and he beat it," said Kris Barten. "When he was 52, it came back, and it was terminal."
To help the family with medical expenses associated with his battle against stage 4 colon cancer, and bolster Ole's spirits, some friends of the Bartens' came up with the idea of hosting a benefit that was "so very Ole" — a motorcycle ride.
"He loved riding, and he always took the same route," Barten said.
As part of the event, and to celebrate the Bartens' 25th wedding anniversary, organizers were able to raise enough money to purchase a new Honda Shadow for Ole, who became very emotional when it was presented to him.
Though Ole was present for that first ride, he died six months later, in February 2011. Their friends decided to continue hosting the ride in his memory.
Because Hospice of the Red River Valley had been such a comfort to both of them during his last months, Barten said, they made the organization the beneficiary of the annual fundraiser.
"They were amazing to us," she said, adding that her dad and a family friend had also benefited from hospice's services during the final stages of their lives.
"In the last eight years, we've raised $102,000 for Hospice," she said. "That's pretty amazing for our tiny little town of 300 people."
This year's event begins Friday, Aug. 23, with a bike show and pre-registration at Billy's Corner Bar in Vergas, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Pre-registration will continue Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The ride leaves at noon.
Though the event is geared toward bike riders, drivers are also welcome to bring their vintage (and not so vintage) cars along on the ride and make the stops with them.
"You don't have to have a motorcycle," she said. "You can follow along, or meet us back at the bar that night ... We usually get back around 6 p.m."
Besides beginning and ending at Billy's in Vergas, there are three "secret" stops along the way.
Barten said she follows along behind in her vehicle to help riders in need of assistance along the route. Door prizes are given away at each stop, while back at Billy's, there's a silent auction going on all day, until shortly after they get back at 6 p.m.
Festivities will conclude with food at Billy's and live music from the Fat Cats, starting at 9 p.m.
Cost to participate in the ride is $25 per bike and $15 for an additional rider; each ticket includes a commemorative T-shirt, door prizes at each stop, the meal, and the live music. Proceeds benefit Hospice of the Red River Valley.
J.J.'s Hog Roast, car and bike show this weekend
The 4th Annual J.J.'s Hog Roast for Hospice is Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23-24, at a spacious site on the shores of Pelican Lake that is owned by the family of Jeffrey "J.J." Bruns Jr., for whom the event is named.
Bruns's accidental death in 2015 inspired his family and friends to create a special celebration of his memory, and the annual hog roast has now grown into a two-day event that starts with a car show and potluck dinner on Friday night, followed by live music, a "show and shine" car and bike show and hog roast.
"We had hogs available to roast and we had the roasters and everything and we thought that it would be a good way of getting people together in remembrance of J.J.," said Elmer Bruns, J.J.'s grandfather.
"J.J. had a lot of people who cared about him and his mom and dad and sister Brittany, and we needed something to have in his honor, the way he would want it," said his cousin, Khera Houston. "He always wanted a big party ... this event has evolved into always making sure there's live music, something fun and exciting going on, and really good food."
A car show and potluck dinner is 5 p.m. Friday. A deejay provides music starting at 7 p.m. Saturday's festivities include a "show and shine" car and bike show from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by the hog roast at 4 p.m. and a memorial balloon release at 6 p.m.
Though there is no cost to attend any of the events on the schedule, there is a suggested donation of $8 for the hog roast, Houston said. The balloon release will begin with a moment of silence "for those who are no longer here," Houston added, followed by the actual balloon release.
Festivities conclude with a performance by the band Skyline at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
In addition, Trowbridge Zoo of Vergas will be offering a petting zoo, and there will be a bounce house. Primitive camping is available.
"Jeff (J.J.'s father) owns the property out there," Bruns said. "We had lots of room, and we had the building (for the hog roast)."
People who want to spend the weekend are invited to bring their campers out to the site at 51943 County Highway 9, Pelican Rapids.
An interactive map and schedule of events can be found at www.jjshogroast.com.