West Coast Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle Ride first originated in May of 2000. Founded by Pat Delahunty, Steve Cifelli, Steve Aragon, George Helton, Lucky & Theresa Delaney, Rich Greenberg, and D. J. Quinn. Delahunty first thought of the idea in May of 1999 while watching the documentary Letters from the Trenches.
The following day, he called some of his fellow Inland Empire Harley Owners Group® chapter members, and they organized a small ride to the Riverside National Cemetery to participate in their annual remembrance ceremony. After the ceremony, they decided to make the ride a tradition.
With the financial support from the Harley-Davidson® dealership in Riverside, California, the tradition grew in stride, doubling attendance each year. Donations from West Coast Thunder Foundation events help build monuments and provide ancillary support resources for the Riverside National Cemetery.
Each Year upwards of 7,500 motorcyclists pack the street of Indiana Avenue in Riverside, California to observe and participate in the tradition of West Coast Thunder.
In 2011, Stater Bros. Charities, a division of Stater Bros. Markets, presented West Coast Thunder 12, featuring the Marshall Tucker Band. Subsequent concert sponsors and headliners included Aaron Lewis of Staind and Stater Bros. and 5-hour Energy presented Uncle Kracker.
In 2013, West Coast Thunder 14 was presented by Stater Bros., 5-hour Energy, Lucas Oil, and MAVTV, and featured country artist and United States Army Veteran, Craig Morgan, and also recording artist, The Farm!
In 2019, West Coast Thunder Memorial Day Motorcycle Ride celebrated its 20th anniversary and first year at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium. Country artist Randy Houser performed to honor the occasion.
In 2020, West Coast Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle Ride was postponed for the first time in history. The global pandemic, COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that spread across the globe, forced many events canceled, and stay-at-home orders were issued by state governors and public health officials. The Board of Directors for the West Coast Thunder Foundation issued the postponement on March 26, 2020.
In February of 2020, West Coast Thunder Foundation announced it was refreshing their branding. The Foundation redesigned their logo, website, and integrated a new ticketing platform, TicketSauce.
Later that year, Former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie broke ground on a new memorial on California Native American Day, September 25, 2020, at Riverside National Cemetery. The American Indian Veterans Memorial will feature a plaza and walkway centered around “The Gift,” a bronze statue representing an American Indian. This new memorial will stand to further enhance the Veterans Legacy Program to educate youth on the lives of these heroes who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
In 2021, the West Coast Thunder Memorial Day Motorcycle Ride event was postponed for a second time. The State of California and the County and City of Riverside continued to limit gatherings and events to slow the spread of COVID-19. Large events were canceled, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival (by order of the Health Officer of the County of Riverside.) With these limitations and in the interest of public safety, the announcement was made on January 29, 2021 to postpone the event.
Despite the pandemic, the Foundation continued to work to honor those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. In August, 2021, the Foundation donated $25,000 to support construction of the American Indian Veterans Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery.
“We are happy to support the construction of a new monument honoring American Indian, Alaska Native, and Pacific Islander Veterans, who have a long history of service to our country,” Jackson Dodd, Executive Director of the West Coast Thunder Foundation, said. “This memorial will pay tribute to their sacrifice in service to their country.”
“For 22 years, West Coast Thunder has provided support for the Veterans and Field of Honor at Riverside National Cemetery, while also displaying great patriotism through the annual Memorial Day Motorcycle parade in Riverside, California,” Paul Adkins, Chairman of the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee, said. “I extend my personal gratitude to Jackson and the rest of the West Coast Thunder Foundation Board of Directors for their support of our efforts to construct the American Indian Veterans Memorial.”
In 2022, West Coast Thunder Memorial Day Motorcycle Ride was postponed yet again. The State of California and the County and City of Riverside limited gatherings as the global pandemic continued to spread. The Board of Directors for the West Coast Thunder Foundation issued the postponement on February 3, 2022.
“Those who have been showing up for our event year-after-year understand that we aren’t just a motorcycle ride,” said Mitch Lavine, President of the West Coast Thunder Foundation Board of Directors. “We are a nonprofit organization, licensed to do business in the state of California and city of Riverside. We have to adhere to these restrictions and guidelines to maintain our ability to conduct business.”
As May, 2022, approached, the State, County, and City began to ease on restrictions. As the Memorial Day Motorcycle Ride takes nearly a year to plan, the board was not able to bring the large-scale event back in such a short time.
“We are excited to explore bringing a more intimate event experience to the motorcycle community,” Dodd said. “Which will further benefit our work towards funding the American Indian Veterans Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery.”
In May, 2022, the Foundation was able to produce the annual West Coast Thunder Poker Run, which has taken place every year the Saturday before the Memorial Day ride. The event garnered $4,000 towards the American Indian Veterans Memorial.
“We are thankful to our riders who participated in our annual Poker Run over Memorial Day weekend,” Dodd said.“We were able to raise $4,000 and contribute those funds directly towards building the American Indian Veterans Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery.”
West Coast Thunder Foundation announced January 24, 2023, that they would be producing the West Coast Thunder Memorial Day Motorcycle Ride in 2023. Planning meetings with local, state, and federal agencies have begun. Registration opened on February 1, 2023.
West Coast Thunder is a tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to honoring those who gave all. Proceeds from the West Coast Thunder events benefit the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee via the West Coast Thunder Foundation.
West Coast Thunder is the major contributor of funds to Riverside National Cemetery, the largest in the United States National Cemetery System. Completed projects include the construction of the National POW / MIA Memorial (dedicated in 2005), repairs to the Medal of Honor Memorial, financial support to the Riverside National Cemetery Memorial Honor Detail, and funding each July for the Concert for Heroes.
These financial gifts have funded cemetery projects, including purchasing flower cones and assisting in the monthly burials of indigent and unaccompanied homeless Veterans.