Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines: The Long Beach Long Riders are coming up on departure day for their cross country benefit ride and they are still open to receiving as many additional donations as possible. So if you haven't kicked in yet and you feel like you might, don't hold back.

Donation information can be found at

The ride begins on Thursday, March 11 in Boone, NC, and ends in Long Beach, CA, in time for the USITT convention on Tuesday, March 16. The motorcycles of choice for this journey are four Harley Davidsons, one Yamaha, two Hondas, and a BMW. The average age of the riders is in the mid 40s.

The Big Idea for the Long Beach Long Riders arose at the 2003 USITT conference when Greg Williams casually suggested to Bill Sapsis that they might bike to next year's conference in California. Sapsis joked that they could decorate his booth space with their parked bikes and in fact could even charge others for the privilege.

At the same conference, Michael Banvard and Williams were talking about the Iron Butt ride that Williams had completed the summer prior and Banvard mentioned that he'd love to do an Iron Butt at some point. Only problem there was that he couldn't figure out how to keep the tools on his UtiliKilt from clanging against his Iron Butt while working backstage during quiet moments...

Well, get a bunch of theatre technicians with limited funds standing around talking bikes, gear, and a free long weekend and it takes no time at all to turn it into a three act production complete with a brilliant and only slightly eccentric cast, props, designers, and the best scenery this country has to offer. Eric MacAfee of J. R. Clancy, suggested turning it into a fundraiser and from there the whole plan fell into place. The core group of nine riders would ride from Boone, NC to Long Beach, CA arriving in time for the USITT conference March 16. They would donate everything they raised to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The motley crew of riders include: Michael Banvard, Pat Barnes, Maurice ‘Moe’ Conn, Cris ‘Brooklyn’ Dopher, Alice Neff, Wayne Rasmussen, Bill ‘Uncle Bill’ Sapsis, Loren ‘Grits’ Schreiber, and Greg Williams.

It is the goal of the Long Beach Long Riders to raise money and remind those in the entertainment industry that the needs of organizations like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids do not diminish even in difficult economic times. Many times in the past the people who work in the spotlight have heeded the call to serve with benefit performances, celebrity auctions, and similar functions. Now, the technicians and designers who work backstage, believe it's now their turn.

They also want to have some fun on the way.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BC/EFA) is the nation's leading industry-based, not-for-profit AIDS fundraising and grant making organization. BC/EFA is the on-going, committed response from the American Theatre community to an urgent worldwide health crisis. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of this community, BC/EFA raises funds for AIDS-related causes across the United States. Since its founding in 1988, BC/EFA has raised over $50 million for critically needed services for people with AIDS, HIV, or HIV-related illnesses.