"Merry Christmas"; 14th Annual Hillbilly Christmas raises money for Children's Hospital

PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - The 14th annual Hillbilly Christmas in July began Saturday evening.

More than 1,000 people packed downtown Pikeville for multiple events.

"It started out with 100 and every year it gets bigger and bigger," said event organizer Shelebra Bartley.

Kids Day in the Park started the string of events.

Admission was free for all children 18-years-old and younger.

Water slide inflatables, free food, and a chance to win free toys kept kids entertained.

Bartley told WYMT, after one active community member's mother died in 2015, he wanted her memory to carry on through something she loved.

That something is Beanie Babies. She collected around 2,000 of the plush animals.

As each child checked in, they received a Beanie Baby stuffed toy.

"It's amazing to give each kid a Beanie Baby. Who doesn't love Beanie Babies, you know?" questioned Bartley. "It's so sweet that someone could do something so selfless," she added.

Each child had multiple opportunities to win a toy. Multiple tables held items like dolls, bikes, and even a television.

"So I got to go to WalMart, where they helped us, of course. I spent $3,000 in toys. Second best day of my life, ever," laughed Bartley.

The City of Pikeville donated that money for the event.

After the park event, a motorcycle parade followed with around 300 bikes.

The bike parade ended Downton for Rumble in the Riverfill.

Hillbilly Christmas in July is not a "Shriner" event but all the proceeds are donated to the Lexington Children's Hospital.

"We're just a bunch of hillbillies that love Shriner kids who want to make money to take to the hospital," explained Bartley.

Erik Hubbard is part of the tourism board for Kentucky motorcycle tourism, Wild Mountain Rides.

"Over $580,000 has been raised since they started this," recalled Hubbard.

Hubbard told WYMT, this 14-year legacy continues to touch lives each year.

"Like anybody else, but bikers especially, when they see a need to help children, someone had a house burned, whatever, that's what we're here for," Hubbard pointed out.

Organizers keep one common goal every year.

"All the children, their eyes light up. It's a great day," said Bartley.

Sunday, Hillbilly Christmas in July "Ride Around Pike County" motorcycle ride begins at 10:00 a.m. at Mineshaft Harley-Davidson.

The ride will run through Pike County and end back at Mineshaft.

Hillbilly Christmas in July began 14-years-ago by Jimmy Kinney and his best friend Randy Jones.

Randy died several years ago.

Sunday's motorcycle ride is named "The Randy Jones Memorial Ride" after the kind-hearted man.

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