Anthony Campos scanned the hustle and bustle up and down Ferry Street Wednesday night, stared up into the bright blue sky and flashed a satisfied smile. Minutes into the first-ever Gooch's Garlic Run to end in the Ironbound, the 24-year-old charitable motorcycle rally was already an unquestionable success.
"I think we got our approval from above," said Campos, president of the Newark-based Blue Knights Chapter IV, said looking skyward. "I don't know if you know this, but one tradition with the Gooch's Garlic Run is it pours every year the night before the event.
"I think a higher authority approved of us moving it to Newark. As you can see, it's 80 degrees and sunny. I don't think there's much more I can add to that."
After all of their previous runs ended in New York's Little Italy with dinners dominated by garlic, an assortment of logistical issues led to Gooch's Garlic Run seeking new roots to continue the charitable bike run organized by law enforcement officials that has raised more than $540,000 through the years for needy children and their families. The annual run - which, this year, benefits four children of Blue Knights families - is organized by the Sparta-based Blue Knights IX Chapter and named for retired Andover Township Police Lieutenant Al "Gooch" Monaco.
"I don't think there are many cities or neighborhoods who have the infrastructure in place to host something like this better than us," Campos said. "When I was asked, 'Can you host upwards of 2,000 bikes?' I said, 'I don't know, we host a million people during the Portugese Festival over two or three days.' Iberia alone could hold 5,000 people. This would be a drop in the bucket. It's such an easy thing."
Nearly 2,000 motorcycles rode into Brick City beginning at 7:15 Wednesday night, creating an undeniable buzz as onlookers and their families photographed and watched the bikes arrive. The rally started at 6:30 p.m. at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall before taking Route 80 East to Route 280 East to Route 21 South before settling in for paella and sangria at Iberia Restaurant on Ferry Street.
"The Ironbound is a natural for it. If New York didn't want to handle it or they were going to make it more difficult, why not handle it here?" Campos added. "As the president, I said, 'Why not bring it down to the Ironbound? Why not benefit the merchants and the residents who want something here?' Look at the gentleman here who brought his kids here to see the motorcycles. There's obviously an entertainment value to this."
For Mitchel Mcguire Jr., a Newark resident who works in the Essex County Prosecutor's Office, the value of this year's run came in how it helped defray some of the more than $3 million in medical costs for his 8-year-old daughter Ariana.
During a playdate last July 20, an arrow struck Ariana Mcguire just above her right eye and penetrated through her brain. She pulled the arrow out herself, and immediately collapsed. When she arrived at the hospital, Mitchel Mcguire recalled doctors saying "they didn't think she was going to make it through the night."
Because the arrow severed an artery on the left side of her brain, Ariana Mcguire endured a stroke. She ended up spending two months in a coma before beginning her recovery. About this time, the Blue Knights approached Mitchel Mcguire, whose father Mitchel Sr., a retired Newark police captain, was a member of the motorcycle club.
"They said, 'We're not asking, we're telling you. We're nominating your daughter (for help),' " said Mitchel Mcguire. "She was fortunate enough by the grace of God and the Blue Knights to be accepted for this award."
On the outdoor patio at Iberia, Ariana Mcguire danced and laughed like a happy 8-year-old, the only visible after-effects from last summer being the brace on her right leg and limited movement in her right arm.
From the initial grim diagnosis, Mitchel Mcguire beamed when he said doctors no longer placed limits on his daughter's future recovery.
"Considering the alternative — that she could be dead — I'll take it any day of the week," Mitchel Mcguire said, looking over at his little girl. "I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, but her recovery is truly a miracle."
Wednesday night will surely help toward Ariana Mcguire's recovery. Just as it may have established roots for future Gooch's Garlic Runs in Newark.
"Being from down here, it's a great experience for me," said Manny Rebimbas, a Newark police officer and Blue Knights Chapter IX member. "I'm glad we had such a great turnout. I hope we can do it (here) every year."