By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
With the Fourth of July falling mid-week, this year’s Red White & Boom will be held on Saturday, June 29 at College Park and will offer a special treat.
“The Bones Bike,” also known as “The Last Ride” motorcycle, will be on display from 5-8 p.m. Somerset resident Jerry Wayne Dixon, a retired art and biology teacher, designed the bike in the 1960s as an effort to spark the interest of some high school students who were interested in little more than motorcycles and hot rods.
So, in his free mannered way of conducting class, Dixon befriended the boys and showed them his drawings of the original motorcycle that featured a skeleton as the body of the machine.
“They caught fire. Fast,” Dixon said. “They took the bones and learned the bones of the body. It (the Bones Bike) brought things alive.”
For Dixon, teaching was a combination of his own talents and interests that ranged from biology and art to engineering. By using them together, the “Bones Bike” was created and has now been displayed all over the United States and in numerous foreign countries. For him, the bike represents the differences in humanity as well as the daring and doom.
“The Last Ride is a combination of disparities, if you will,” he said. “It is a contradiction. To someone who enjoys motorcycles, it is the refusal to relinquish. To those who despise the infernal two-wheel machines, they know it’s going to kill you.”
Dixon laughs about the various reactions he has seen over the years since he first displayed The Last Ride at the Detroit Autorama in 2007.
“It is most fun to sit back and watch,” he said. “I once saw a little boy and his father approach and the little boy grabbed his daddy by the leg and wouldn’t let go. Once, two forensic surgeons came and named the bones of the skeleton. The pictures give you an idea, but there’s nothing like walking up to it.”
Dixon attended Lily High School. He met his wife, who attended London and Hazel Green high schools, at Sue Bennett College. Dixon also went to Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands). He retired from teaching in 1994 after 29 years. Add that to 27 years as an instructor at the Somerset campus of Somerset Community College and 27 years of working for an engineering firm where he designed water and sewer plants, and just a section of Dixon’s life is unfolded. Now he takes “The Last Ride” to car and motorcycle shows all over the United States, wedging the London stop on June 29 between a recent show in Chicago and Concourse show at Keeneland in July.
Sponsored by the City of London, Red White & Boom will bring back many crowd favorites to the annual Independence Day celebration. According to Sharon Benge, coordinator of the event, the inflatables, games, contests and food will be the same fun-filled activities as always before.
The popularity of last year’s musical headliner, Good Vibrations, is also back by popular demand.
“This is a tribute band who traveled with the Beach Boys,” Benge said. “Everyone seemed to like them so well last year that we asked them back again this year.”
Performing on the stage — sponsored by the Laurel County Fiscal Court — Good Vibrations is set to rock the crowd around 8 p.m., followed by the annual fireworks display at dusk.
“We have some other things in the works, but they have not been finalized yet,” she said. “We will be releasing more information along but everyone can rest assured that Red White & Boom will be a great event you won’t want to miss.”