President Trump announced Sunday the annual Rolling Thunder veterans gathering would go on past this year, which was expected to be its last ride.
Despite the tweet, organizers of the event said Sunday that they are still planning on this being the final Rolling Thunder gathering.
“If we are invited to the White House, we’ll go but as of right now, this is our final ride,” Rolling Thunder spokeswoman Nancy Regg, told the Washington Post.
Since 1988, veterans and supporters have ridden motorcycles through Washington to show support and solidarity for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Organizers said there have been financial and logistical reasons for pulling the plug on the event after this year. But Trump tweeted Sunday that they would be returning.
“The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be, & where they should be. Have a wonderful time today. Thank you to our great men & women of the Pentagon for working it out!” he said.
The Great Patriots of Rolling Thunder WILL be coming back to Washington, D.C. next year, & hopefully for many years to come. It is where they want to be, & where they should be. Have a wonderful time today. Thank you to our great men & women of the Pentagon for working it out!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2019
Trump did not offer details about how permitting and other problems would get worked out with the Defense Department. The cost of the national event is a significant factor in ending it, according to Rolling Thunder’s executive director, Artie Muller. He also cited what he said is a lack of support from Pentagon officials, manifested in the diversion of bikers away from Pentagon parking lots, which, Muller says, they used in the past without problems.
Last year, Rolling Thunder only sold half of the commemorative memorabilia that helps fund the event. Rolling Thunder’s president, Joe Bean, said that given the financial costs and difficulty in sales, the event would have to come to an end. The group spends about $200,000 on parking lot rentals, permits, security, and portable toilets.
“With that money, I can surely help a lot of veterans pay their mortgage, put food on the table or give their kids a Christmas,” Bean said.