West Coast Thunder 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. To this date, West Coast Thunder has donated more than $1.2 million to the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee. These donations 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 celebrated its 20th anniversary and first year at Lake Elsinore Diamond “Storm Stadium.” Country artist Randy Houser performed to honor the occasion.
In 2020, West Coast Thunder 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, indicating that the West Coast Thunder 21 event would be postponed to the following year on Memorial Day, May 31, 2021.
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.