Bikes, blessings and a good time: 23rd BJ Stelly Bike Blessing to include Pirate Run

Published 10:00 am Friday, March 30, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


Leather, chrome, tattoos and a desire to help out mariners will be just a few of the common threads uniting crowds this weekend near the Port of Port Arthur.

The Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center is hosting the 23rd Annual BJ Stelly Bike Blessing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at its location on 401 Houston Ave. in Port Arthur.

The event features bikers from around the area — and many from outside it — as they have their rides blessed and ready to participate in a group ride that has involved hundreds of individuals in past years.

“It looks like we’re going to have a real great day,” the Rev. Sinclair Oubre, executive director, said. “This gives people a chance to visit with each other and to enjoy each other’s company for the day.”

Oubre said 2017’s Bike Blessing drew about 600 people with an accompanying 415 motorcycles.

“It’s probably one of the bigger biker events in Southeast Texas,” Oubre said.

Tickets cost $20 for the driver and $20 for the rider. The cost includes the run as well as links, drinks and chips. Proceeds will go toward the center and the seafarers it serves.


A Seafarers’ fund-raiser

“It’s one of the Seafarers’ biggest fundraisers of the year,” Oubre said. “For many folks, this is how they start their spring and summer riding sessions as well as kick off their Easter observances.”

“This year we’re doing a Pirate Run. We’re making it more maritime-ish,” Doreen Badeaux, board president, said. “We’re going to a lot of places that are more nautical.”

Among the stops are the Port Neches Wheelhouse and the Port Arthur Yacht Club.

“There are eight sites to choose from, and the rider will choose five of those and take a selfie at them,” she said.

When the last bike is back by 3 p.m., the riders will be able draw a pirate rubber ducky for every selfie that they took at the designated areas. Each ducky has a number underneath them that says how many tickets they could get for the door prizes.

Oubre said the funds would help them take care of the estimated 46,000 seafarers who come through the center each year.

“The number’s probably closer to 50,000…” Oubre said. “We call it our community.”

Oubre attributed the increase in people traffic to the quadrupling of LNG export along the Louisiana side of the Sabine-Neches Waterway.

“The shipping side of our experience is growing,” Oubre said. “We’re the third-largest maritime center by tonnage in the United States.

“We surpassed San Francisco, and are only behind Houston and Los Angeles Long Beach.”

An estimated 3,000 ships go through the Port of Port Arthur annually, something of which Oubre is keenly aware.


Attention for the center

“Some people are oblivious to the roots of our community here,” he said. Thereby, a fundraising event like the Bike Blessing is one that would bring attention and awareness to the center and its maritime roots.

There will be other activities and entertainment for those attending Saturday.

“We’re going to be showing the Daytona 200 motorcycle race from March 17, and in the media area there will be a motorcycle movie,” Oubre said.

In addition, there will be a pool table, horseshoes and washers and the chance for door prizes.

Oubre made certain to say that even if some people couldn’t make the ride or stick around for the day, they could still sponsor a seafarer.

“The idea is a lot of folks come for the blessing, but there’s also a lot of activities planned for the day,” he said. “Even if they can’t register for $20, they could sponsor a seafarer for $20.”