Proceeds from Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally will go to hurricane victims

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(video) --- PENSACOLA BEACH, Fla. (WEAR) — For the last 17 years, Panama City has hosted the Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally, but Hurricane Michael forced them to find a new place this year.

That new place is Pensacola Beach.

This weekend, thousands of motorcyclists are gathering there and 100 percent of the proceeds from the event will go to people impacted by the hurricane.

Greg and Jill Ward have been going to the Thunder Beach Rally for 12 years. They say this year’s event in Pensacola is smaller, but the focus is not the crowd.

"This is not even a drop in the hat, so we're just doing what we can to support them. We can't do much, but we do what we can,” Greg said.

The event typically draws 40,000 to 65,000 people to Panama City Beach. That’s where it’s been held for two decades, but after Hurricane Michael the plans changed.

"It's been hectic to get to this point and now it is very rewarding to see that bikes are showing up to see the town and they're coming to help Bay County - the area they've come to love over the years,” said Thunder Beach General Manager Chris Anderson.

Organizers expect about 7,000 people to come to this rally. Attendees like Jill hope they can make a difference.

It’s an event the area relies on for millions of dollars in revenue each year.

" I mean I know some of the proceeds are going to Panama City, but you've also gotta take into account all the little local restaurants and local stores that aren't getting any of the revenue they'd normally get,” Jill said.

Others like Kevin Herring want their fellow riders to know they aren’t alone in the recovery process.

"Because we've been through a few here. Hurricane Ivan is the biggest one, but a few others-Aaron, Opal, Dennis and I've seen what they're going through,” Kevin said.

It’s an event that unites the community.

"It's a brotherhood. Even when you don't know them, you know them. There's a code of ethics there that's like no other,” said Jill.

There are about 50 vendors at the event.

The event runs through Sunday.

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Renee Beninat
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