NEGAUNEE - Forget the Sons of Anarchy, these guys should be called the Sons of Charity.
These guys - The Highland Clan Motorcycle Club - started the new year with a case of Cabin Fever, the name of the "bash" the club hosted at Pasquali's in Negaunee Saturday night.
Some may believe the stereotype of the rough and crazy biker taken to the extreme at times by television's "Sons of Anarchy," but the members of the Highland Clan put community service at the top of their to-do list.
The community was invited to take part in the Highland Clan Motorcycle Club’s Cabin Fever Bash, which is a thank you to the community for its support of the club’s charitable efforts. The motorcycle group raised more than $6,000 for charity in 2013. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Despite sub-zero temperatures, the atmosphere was warm inside the venue as the club thanked the community for supporting its many charitable endeavors through the past year.
Really, through the past 18 years.
"This is the 18th year we've had this event," said longtime club member Pete Heikkila as he sold tickets at the door. "This is our national get-together and we have some people who have traveled from Tennessee, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois to be here. With the weather, some of our regulars from North Dakota couldn't make it this year.
"The event here is a thank you for the people who support us all through the year," Heikkila said. "We do our toy run for Toys for Tots every year and we appreciate the support we get."
The Highland Clan members work with local businesses to secure door prizes and auction items, then throw a summer event for charity.
"In 2013, we raised more than $6,000 for the cause," Heikkila said. "Because of the support of the local community, we have raised more than $50,000 for charity in the last 12 years."
The Cabin Fever Bash, featuring music by Last Chance, was a way to show appreciation to those who support the group's charity efforts and to have fun with people they might not have seen in months - or even since the previous bash in January 2013.
Like "Bad Bill" from Chicago. He was in attendance Saturday to catch up with his Marquette County friends.
"This is a great group," he said as he caught up with friends. "And a great event."
And there was local motorcycle legend Cookie Cook.
"This is a great chance to let off some steam in the wintertime," he said. "You can come on out and see your brothers and experience some camaraderie. It's a good thing."
Heikkila said that the event is geared to be fun, but also serves as a chance to remember club members who have passed away.
"This has been a tough year for us," he said. "Tonight we celebrate the life of our brother, Mutt, who passed away from cancer. He was a founding father of this group and he is missed.
"We're also remembering A.J. (Karvonen), a member who died so young," Heikkila said. "We have set up a trust fund for his two boys and will continue to do activities to support that until those boys get through college."
As the music played and the conversations flowed with laughter, Pasquali's owner Clark Gravedoni Jr. smiled.
"It's a good bunch of guys," Gravedoni said. "They're well supportive of the community."
He wasn't so sure about that 18 years ago, when the group initially asked to have the bash at his establishment.
"I was a little concerned. It's a biker club," Gravedoni said. "But I found out right away this the most well-behaved bunch around. I never have to worry about trouble with them. They look like bikers, for sure, but they don't act like the bad stereotypes. Not at all.
"After all these years, I have gotten to know the folks that come from out of town and the ones from all Marquette County," Gravedoni said. "You won't find a better group of people."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.