By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
After overcoming a number of obstacles last year, Hilo’s Toys for Tots Motorcade appears to be a bust.
The annual motorcycle ride, which attracts hundreds of participants in the name of collecting holiday gifts for needy children, has hit the end of the road as far as 2012 is concerned, said event organizer Ellsworth Fontes.
The president of the Hilo Chapter of the Rock & Roll Motorcycle Club said that he had failed to obtain the necessary permits that would allow motorcycles and other vehicles to form a convoy through town, before converging to give away hundreds, and even thousands, of toys to area keiki.
“It’s just too late in the game to get anything done,” he said Monday. “This year, we’re done.”
The problem, he said, is that he was required to apply for a permit from the state this year, in addition to a permit from the Hawaii County Police. Fontes claims that the permit requirements were “nearly impossible” with which to comply, and so he ended up never submitting the application.
Among the stipulations, Fontes and other members of the motorcycle club would have been responsible for erecting barricades along Kanoelehua Avenue between Ken’s Pancake House and the airport, where the Civil Air Patrol parking lot was to serve as the staging ground for the start of the ride.
“They were also requiring us to put two articles in the newspaper referring to the detour, and they would have to approve the article before we ran it,” he said. “It was these ridiculous kind of requests, just to use a short part of the state highway.”
Ultimately, Fontes said he feels the police department had grown tired of dealing with the traffic headaches and other problems brought about by the ride.
“I really feel in my heart, that this is coming from the police department. All they did was find a way to pass the buck,” he said.
South Hilo Patrol Capt. Robert Wagner disagreed, saying that the police department is willing to work with Fontes to make the event happen. “They just need to get a permit from the state,” he said.
Fontes claims he has tried to contact Wagner to discuss the situation, but has not received a response.
Last year, Fontes also announced the cancellation of the annual ride, which has been held every year since 1996. He did so in response to new Hawaii Police Department requirements that the ride limit the number of participants to 300 motorcyclists and 50 vehicles. But a few short days later, Fontes announced that the ride was back on after Mayor Billy Kenoi rode to the rescue, promising to smooth over the disagreement with the police.
Despite poor weather, last year’s ride ended up collecting 2,856 toys for area children.
This year, however, Fontes says even in the event of last-minute mayoral support, there’s too much that would have to be done before the Sunday, Dec. 9, event, including obtaining insurance policies and arranging toy drop-off locations with area businesses.
“I’m more frustrated than anything else,” Fontes said. “People are upset because they don’t get to ride, but the people who really end up getting hurt is the kids.”
Fontes added that he will continue to collect toys to be donated to area kids at his motorcycle shop, Ellsworth Custom Cycles, at 969 Kinoole St. in Hilo. He may also be contacted at 935-5519.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.