Trailblazers Awards Banquet 2016

Words & Photos: Howie Zechner

It’s a rite of passage that happens every year. A gathering where like minded men and women celebrate their past, welcome the future and pay homage to they’re fallen. A joyous occasion where Knights are honored and legends are immortalized. A feast with food and wine that fills the stomach and stimulates the mind. A strange phenomenon where yester-year and today collide. A Banquet of Trailblazers.

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                                      Trailblazers President Don Emde with author Howie Zechner

On Saturday April 23, 2016 well over 700 of these two wheel faithful gathered at the Carson Center in Carson California for the 72nd annual Trailblazers banquet. It did not disappoint. It was spectacular.

The announced opening was three pm but many had been on hand for hours. Rekindling old friendships and making new they filled the massive parking lot. Telling stories and bench racing. Smiles were abundant and camaraderie ruled.

A beautiful sunny California day, large tents were set up at the entrance so attendees could pick up their credentials and program. Manned by Trailblazers directors and volunteers the process was quick and painless.

Entering the large open courtyard guests were treated to the Tom Cates Memorial Bike Show. Organized by Tom White, motorcycles filled the entire area. In front of each machine a sign that stated the year, manufacturer and bikes owner. All in attendance were encouraged to vote for the machines they liked best. Separated into several different categories the winners were announced later in the evening. They were brought to the stage, said a few words about their bikes and received a trophy.

Also in the courtyard several tables contained old posters, pictures, trophy’s and other assorted two wheel treasures. Chairs lined each side of the large open structure and three bars served alcoholic drinks, soda or water.

Master of Ceremonies duo Don Emde and Keith Mashburn welcomed guests and made several announcements. A prayer and pledge of allegiance followed.

A moving video tribute to those whom we have lost since our last April 11, 2015 gathering was shown. Very moving it brought a tear to more than one as each of the fallen was honored.

Next agenda item, dinner. No rubber chicken it was beef, pasta, green beans, salad and rolls. Well prepared, tasty and plentiful, there were no complaints. A bottle of red and white wine with a picture of Trailblazer Tom Heininger on the bottle graced each table. Coffee or tea was also available. Desert consisted of chocolate, vanilla or carrot cake.

2016 Hall of Fame inductee acknowledgements followed. A well-produced video tribute preceded each nominee being brought on stage. Once there a lengthy verbal exchange was conducted by the evening Master of Ceremonies. Sometimes funny, always informative Don Emde and Keith Mashburn have this routine down pat.

This year Mike Bast, Dan Haaby, Bruce Ogilvie, Wayne Rainey, Steve Storz and Gil Vaillancourt were inducted into the 2016 Hall of Fame. The crowd agreed with cheers and applause.

Keith Mashburn was the 2016 Dick Hammer Award recipient and Sidecar Susie Ellsworth received the 2016 Lucille Flanders Award.

Like most good things the evening ended way to soon. Well after 10pm many lingered to take one more picture, tell or hear one more tale or relive one more yesteryear.

As always the evenings festivities were excellent. For those of you that missed it I can only say What were you Thinking?



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