NEILLSVILLE, Wis. (WEAU)- You could call it a hometown version of the Tour de France. For the past three days more than 150 bikers have been peddling their way from across Wisconsin to raise money for a memorial that honors our veterans.
“It’s grueling, you do 180 miles in 2 1/2 days and it’s not all flat,” Jerry Simon said.
Simon is among a group that's been switching gears and riding up and down the hills of Western Wisconsin. It's all part of the Highground Memorial Bike Tour, a 30-year tradition. The goal of the tour is to raise money for the Highground Veterans Park in Neillsville.
“This is the only thing that keeps it going we aren't funded by any government agency or anything,” Simon added.
For the past 30 years the park has relied heavily on the fundraising efforts of its annual bike ride to pay the bills. But with an aging group of riders, some are concerned about the future.
“The older generation is the core of this ride and they are all getting old and I hope they continue to ride,” Highground General Manager Kirk Rodman said.
Rodman says each annual bike tour brings in more than $40-thousand for the veterans memorial.
Over the course of three days, riders travel more than 150 miles from all across the state with the final destination of the Highground, where they get to take in the sights of memorials honoring our nation’s heroes.
“There were veterans clapping their hands and I had tears in my eyes the first time I finished the route. It was very moving,” rider Randy Meyer said.
Thanks to the money raised from the annual event, the memorial continues to grow with plenty of new tributes in store in the coming years.
“We are working on projects. We always are working on something,” Rodman said.
The Highground says in addition to growing its permanent tributes, it will also be hosting three memorial walls that pay tribute to Vietnam Veterans and those who have died fighting in the War on Terror. The walls will be on display from August 13 through the 17th at the Highground in Neillsville.