Traditional kickoff to Laconia Bike Week will benefit fire rescue team, veterans, families
LACONIA - Every time Peter Makris would see the Laconia Fire Rescue Boat go blasting through the Weirs Beach Channel to a rescue, he would scramble to find out what was going on.
Although Makris died in 2007, his dedication to the fire department's water rescue operations lives on in an annual fundraising project that benefits the department, And, in the past three years, those benefits have been extended to include New Hampshire soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families through the Easter Seals NH Veterans Count program.
The Peter Makris Memorial Ride & Run, which will open Laconia Bike Week, honors the man, who is 'still very much with us,' said Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the rally. 'And it really kick-starts the week,' which begins June 9.
The annual run is a 75-mile 'feet-up' ride that circles the lake without any traffic stops.
Money raised is used for the operation of three fire rescue boats, training and assorted equipment needed by the dive team.
Makris' daughter, Cynthia, said the ride has so far enabled the fire department to buy four sets of regular dive suits, a side-scan sonar device, GPS sonar equipment and two winter diving suits.
'It's very cool,' she said of the success of the ride. 'It is amazing to have such a vehicle (as Bike Week) to raise this.'
This year, the estimated 300 riders could be joined by as many as 200 firefighters on motorcycles because the International Association of Firefighters Motorcycle Group is encouraging its members to join in.
After Makris died, longtime family friend Marilyn DeMartini suggested a motorcycle run to benefit a fund he helped to create in 2004. Makris was moved to establish the fund after Firefighter Mark Miller died as a result of a winter dive training accident. At the time, the fire department had no water rescue unit to help in safety efforts on the 70-acre lake.
After Miller's death, Makris donated $5,000 toward a new boat and encouraged friends and business associates to match the gift, noting it had been Miller's dream to see a dive team. That first year, they raised $90,000.
The event has become so profitable that three years ago organizers began to look to another of Makris' passions, support of service members and their families. To date, about $23,000 has been given to the Veterans Count program.
The event registration fee of $55 includes a full breakfast and after-ride barbecue at the NASWA Resort, 1086 Weirs Blvd.
There will be a blessing of the bikes prior to the start of the rally, and the New Hampshire Fire Brigade Bagpipers will perform. The ride, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., will be escorted by New Hampshire State Police and an antique fire truck.
Registration will be held through June 4 at naswa.com/peter_makris or by calling 366-4341.
Makris, who was an avid boater, was a U.S. Marine and World War II veteran. He owned the NASWA Resort at Weirs Beach.