Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Grand Prairie—The Grand Prairie Police Department held its 10th annual Spring Classic motorcycle rodeo this past week. The event featured police and civilian riders competing in various motorcycle skill challenges.

Since its inception, the classic has partnered with Special Olympics Texas with the organization receiving proceeds from the event.

Despite last year’s cancellation because of the pandemic, these riders showed no rust.

This year’s event totaled 100 riders, 68 police officers and 32 civilians. Police departments were represented from as far away as Amarillo. In years past, the Spring Classic has seen departments make the trek to Grand Prairie from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

Civilian riders come from as far away as Florida and Arizona.

Most of the Grand Prairie Police Department’s (GPPD) officers no longer compete the events.

“We used to participate, but it’s gotten to the point where we needed all hands on deck,” traffic sergeant Eric Hansen said. “All of our people who compete in other competitions, don’t compete in this one. We’re the host agency.”

The Irving Police Department was well-represented.

“It’s always good to support your neighbor,” Irving Police officer Sam Hall said. “There are times when we work together.”

Hall likes the location at Grand Prairie Premium Outlets, because it gets a lot of exposure, and people driving by will stop and check out the event.

“It’s always a good cause to give back to Special Olympics,” Hall said.

The primary event of the classic, which was held May 5-8, saw participants navigating tight courses of cones. The whole setup had them weaving on motorcycles through a comparably narrow and unforgiving a course as one might see training agility at a gym. The dexterity and control these bikes allow is worthy of awe. Competitors maneuver through lanes and around bends so demanding that their bikes often scrape against the ground. The courses would be impressive for a BMX bike to travel, let alone a 900-pound hog.

The other solo event, Last One Standing, is a slow ride. It is the only directly head-to-head event. Here, competitors are ride against one another simultaneously, and are not simply judged on their times. Riders put their bikes on the slowest speed possible while still in drive, and balance without putting their feet on the ground. The winner is the rider that crosses the finish line of the track, a straight line of about 30 feet, slowest.

Next up were four-man team rides, in which quartets of competitors all enter the course at the same time, trailing one another as close as possible. The course boasts exit ramps that quickly loop back into the track for riders at the lead position to exit, and then return to formation at the caboose of the convoy, adding additional wrinkles of coordination.

Finally, competitors participated in the partner tether ride. Teams of two riders attach a three-foot Velcro rope between their motorcycles, and drive through a course side-by-side as fast as possible. If one drifts too far apart and sees the physical bond break, they are disqualified.

Doug Ray, executive development director of Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Texas, has been a leader in orchestrating this event since its 2011 inception. Through events like Grand Prairie’s, they are able to raise $1.5 million a year for the Special Olympics. The Law Enforcement Torch Run started in 1981, so they’re celebrating 40 years in 2021.

“We’ve had a great relationship since day one with Grand Prairie,” Ray said.

Coming every single year, Ray’s favorite part of the event is the visual of all the motorcycles coming in.

“When those lights are flashing and that flag is flying, it’s an amazing thing,” he said, referring to the opening ceremony.

At the opening ceremonies, Ray introduced a Special Olympics athlete, who officially signaled the start of the events with a call to action: 68 officers in front of him, lights on go, he said, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” They obliged.