The Parade starts at 8300 South Western Ave. (83rd & Western). The bike staging area is a Chicago Forest Preserve called The Dan Ryan Woods. The Woods open at 6:00AM CST. You will be given directions of where to go when you arrive. The Parade leaves The Dan Ryan Woods at 9:30am CST.
The first riders leave at 9:30 AM, and usually arrive in about 1-1/2 hours. However, due to weather conditions and the number of participants, times can vary. Riders are encouraged to ride at a leisurely pace, to enjoy the event and surrounding atmosphere.
The weather in Chicago can be a challenge, but The Parade will always take place on the first Sunday in December, rain or shine or snow. We suggest that all riders stay aware of the weather, and dress and ride accordingly. If you are a biker, you are resourceful. Be prepared for anything!
The Parade welcomes ALL MOTORCYCLISTS, provided they bring at least one toy to donate to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys For Tots Program, and arrive on a street-legal motorcycle. We encourage all riders to join us, and we frequently see bikes from Alaska and Hawaii. Even non-riders can participate by bringing toys to The Dan Ryan Woods or the DeVry/LaneTech campus to donate.
If a single group of 20,000 motorcyclists were to travel through the center of Chicago, traffic and bus routes would be severely hampered. Therefore, The Parade is divided into 4 or 5 groups, called tiers. The Parade begins with Tier 1, which usually contains approximately 5,000 riders. When Tier 1 leaves the woods, there will be an interval of approximately 15-20 minutes before Tier 2 is released. This allows traffic and pedestrians to cross Western Avenue for approximately 15 minutes between each tier.
No! All riders who enter the woods, will have to park their bikes until The Parade begins. The Toys For Tots volunteers will direct the incoming riders, but will not permit any riding through the woods. We welcome all riding groups, clubs, gangs, families, tribes, etc., but if you want to ride The Parade in a group, you must arrive at the woods, in a group. We suggest that groups assemble somewhere in the vicinity of 83rd Street and Western Avenue, at a nearby restaurant, school, parking lot or tavern, before coming to the woods.
The Parade is organized by volunteers from the Chicago area who care about unfortunate children, promoting motorcycles, and having fun.
Absolutely not! We need photographers, writers, promoters, organizers, stationary blockers, security, sellers, toy collector and distributors,
Trailer parking is located in Forest Preserve property at 87th Street and Western Avenue, east of Western and north on 87th Street.
The Chicagoland Toys for Tots Motorcycle Parade Organization is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity. Our mission is to provide toys to individuals, youth groups, shelters, hospitals and group homes throughout the city. We are a separate and distinct entity from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
All of the toys collected in Chicagoland Toys for Tots toys boxes are brought to our warehouse and distributed by our volunteers. We only donate some of the toys collected at the parade itself to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program, making us its single largest contributor.
Chicagoland Toys for Tots and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Tots for Tots both work to ensure that every kid in Chicago gets a Christmas.
The Chicago Toys For Tots Motorcycle Parade assembles in The Dan Ryan Woods, a Cook County forest preserve, located at 8300 South Western Avenue in Chicago. The Woods open at 6AM, no bikes will be allowed into The Woods before 6AM. There are two requirements to enter The Woods and ride in The Parade. You must ride a street legal motorcycle, and you must bring at least one new, unwrapped toy to donate. And please, no stuffed animals on the back of bikes.
Upon arriving at The Woods, follow the directions of the volunteers, and ride through the parking area until the volunteers ask you to park your bike. The parking area is a large circle. You will notice that there is an open lane on one side of the parking area, as this is the emergency lane and must be clear of all vehicles. From the time you arrive until The Parade leaves, you will have time to walk around The Woods and meet the other riders, and see their bikes. Some riders prefer to leave their toy donations at The Woods instead of carrying them to the end of The Parade, trucks parked on Western are for collecting toys. There will be Christian Motorcyclist booths with coffee and hot chocolate, and there will be an area where the official TFT Parade merchandise will be available for purchase. Santa will arrive around 9AM, and will then park for photo opportunities. For any help with questions or problems while in The Woods, look for a Parade volunteer.
At 9:30AM Santa Claus will lead the first group of riders onto Western Avenue, and they will proceed north at a speed of 5-10 mph. Riders follow, riding side-by-side in the left lane. Once the first group of riders leaves The Woods, there will be a short break before the next group leaves. This is to allow traffic to cross Western Avenue along The Parade route, which is about 20 miles along. The Parade will be divided into 4 or more sections, depending on how many riders participate.
As the riders proceed north on Western Avenue, there will be many intersections, alleys and driveways along the route, where automobiles may occasionally try to enter The Parade. All these areas will be patrolled by volunteers and police officers, but all riders should still be aware of the actions of all cars near them along The Parade route. All riders are expected to ride in a careful, defensive manner. Careless and dangerous riding will not be tolerated. There will be hundreds of Chicago police officers and Parade volunteers, both moving and stationary, along the entire route, and they will immediately remove any riders that ride irresponsibly.
Riders must not throw any candy to the children along the route. Children frequently run into the street after the candy, and these actions could have horrible results. This is a strict requirement of the city of Chicago. For the safety of the children, anyone seen throwing candy during The Parade will be asked to stop. If the person continues, they may face arrest. Please ride carefully, no burn-outs, no wheelies, or you will be asked to leave The Parade.
The Parade travels north to the destination. At that point the riders will make a turn and continue to follow the volunteers instructions for parking. After parking, riders may drop-off toys in an area for toy donations, and visit various booths where CMA volunteers will dispense hot beverages. Official TFT Parade merchandise will be available for sale. A stage will be the center for any activities and important announcements.
The Chicago TFT Motorcycle Parade is a unique run in that it is actually, according to the city of Chicago, a motorcade. Few motorcycle runs involve so many riders and travel at such a slow pace through the very center of a great city. It may take a rider around 90 minutes to cover the entire route without stops. Riders go through many varied neighborhoods, and there will be hundreds of spectators cheering the riders. Enjoy the day and ride carefully.
So if this is your first Chicago TFT Parade, we welcome you, we hope you have a good time, and we thank you for your support. Thank you for brightening the holidays for a needy child. We hope you will return and be part of The Parade next year. And we hope that you will consider becoming a Parade volunteer yourself! Our instructional meetings begin in September, so check our website and Facebook pages for times, dates and locations.
One more thing, if you come to Chicago from a long distance and trailer your motorcycle, there is an area for trailer parking, during The Parade, at 87th Street and Western Avenue. That's about one-half mile south of the entrance to The Dan Ryan Woods on Western Avenue. If you have motorcycle mechanical problems, a rescue/tow service is available at 312-882-5846.
This website is dedicated to the memory of TFT Parade Member Ed May
who created the first Parade website, with Jack Voss, in 1999.
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