The 75th anniversary Trailblazers banquet—held on Saturday, April 6th—was a celebration of racing, riding, motorcycles, and above all, people. Time and again, when asked by event emcee Larry Huffman to name the highlight, the high point of their careers, the 2019 Hall of Fame inductees and Dick Hammer Award winners said “the people,” as in the parents, the family, the friends, the teams and supporters that surrounded them through it all.
Joining the Trailblazers Hall of Fame this year were racing promoter Chris Agajanian; desert and Baja racer A.C. Bakken; motocrosser and industry executive Mark Blackwell; Yamaha research and design executive Ed Burke; off-road racer turned aftermarket executive and bike-brand namesake John Penton; motocross hero Rex Staten, and trials rider and motocross racer Jim Willson. For the first time, the highest Trailblazers honor, the Dick Hammer Award, went to two recipients: road racing giants Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey. Both are good friends and both won two AMA Superbike Championships. Both won the Daytona 200, and Lawson won four 500cc grand prix world championship titles while Rainey won three.
“The purpose of the Trailblazers banquet has always been very simple,” said Trailblazers President Don Emde, 1972 Daytona 200 winner. “Once a year we give former racers and members of the motorcycle industry a chance to reunite with old friends from days gone by. He added, “In addition to the legendary cast of honorees on stage this year, many more former world and national champions were in attendance, including Kenny Roberts, Malcolm Smith, Brad Lackey, Mert Lawwill, Bubba Shobert and others representing all aspects of the motorcycle sport.”
The people of our motorcycling community were the stars of the banquet in Carson, California, but some great motorcycles were on stage as well, with the Tom Cates Memorial Bike Show presented by Hagerty. Before and during the dinner, dozens of classic motorcycles were on display there at the Carson Events Center, many of them lovingly restored. Some of the bikes were historic race- and championship-winners. The winners of the bike show were:
Pat Knopp: 1960 Yamaha YDS1 250cc scrambler -- Best of Show
Dennis Briggs: 1963 Honda CR110 50cc -- Trailblazers Spirit Award
Mark Henry: 1970 Triumph Trackmaster -- Tom White Competition Award
John Speight: 1972 Monark 125 MX -- Hagerty People’s Choice Award
The 75th anniversary banquet was a popular success, with 800 seats for the dinner selling out within eight hours of going online. To prepare for next year’s event, the motorcycle club’s leadership will again be meeting at the MIC headquarters in Irvine, California, home of business operations and support for The Trailblazers.
Front row (L-R): Neil Fergus, Debbie Evans-Leavitt, John Hateley, Chris Carter, Ernie Aragon, Del Kuhn, Don Graves, Gary Bryson.
Second row: Chuck Miller, Paul Collins, Jim Connolly, Lori Conway, CH Wheat, Kenny Roberts, Al Rogers, Dan Haaby, Ron Nelson, David Aldana, Jim Odom, Bobby Schwartz.
Third row (middle): Sonny Nutter, Wayne Rainey, Rex Staten, Sammy Tanner, Steve Scott (on the right side behind Aldana)
Top row: Larry Huffman, Tony Murphy, Mike Bast, Thad Wolfe, Susie Ellsworth, Ed Burke, Ralph White, Mike Konle, Darryl Bassani (partially blocked), Kel Carruthers, Peter Starr, Stu Peters, Dennis Mahan, Don Emde, Steve Storz, Mark Blackwell, John Penton, Judy Whitson (partially blocked), Bill Van Tichelt, Buddy Stubbs, A.C. Bakken (partially blocked), Jim Wilson (partially blocked), Norm McDonald, Bryon Farnsworth, Tom Horton, Chris Agajanian, Dave Ekins, Mary McGee, Rob Morrison.