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Rain or shine, the Hero Thrill Show will go on

A rainy Wednesday afternoon truncated a pep rally for the show that supports the children of fallen police officers and fire fighters.

A wet, dreary Wednesday afternoon may have kept the planned action at this year’s annual Hero Thrill Show Preview and Pep Rally to a minimum, but organizers said the full event, to be held on Sept. 23, is still expected to be a spectacle of stunts, police and firefighter equipment and displays as well as live music, mascots and dance teams.

But, the planned preview of the upcoming event, held at 18th and Market Streets, was shortened, due to rain on Wednesday. The Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team couldn’t perform in the slick roadways and a planned rappelling stunt had to be canceled as well.

But young police fan Ryder Simms was on hand to ride his toy police car, and the Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team still enjoyed the event, even if the rain kept them from performing. 

“The rain killed us,” said Jimmy Binns, a lawyer and chairman of the Thrill Show, after the rain caused most of the day’s event to be canceled.

Binns has been in charge of the Thrill Show since 2006, when, he said, the show was set to be shuttered, but he stepped in and saved it from closure.

“It had fallen out of favor… It was going out of business,” said a rain-soaked Binns on Wednesday. “Nobody else was going to help them.”

In fact, according to information shared by the Office of the City Representative, Sheila Hess, ten years ago, before Binns took over the show, attendance was just 400 people. But, in 2016, the Hero Thrill Show saw an attendance of about 25,000.

Binns said he was excited to take over the show, and recalled that the year he did it, he promised Sylvester Stallone that he would work to get the statue of Rocky Balboa moved to the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art after it had been moved to the Spectrum in South Philly, if Stallone would serve as Grand Marshall of the Thrill Show that year.

And, Stallone obliged.

The Thrill Show was initially established in 1954 – this year’s event will be the 63rd annual – after ten firefighters died in an explosive gas fire in North Philadelphia. It was established as an event that could help support the college educations of the children of firefighters, police officers and other first responders who had been disabled or died in the line of duty.

Since he took over the show in 2006, Binns said, he’s been able to help put 23 children of fallen police or firefighters through college.

“And, it never gets old,” he said with a grin.

Now, Philadelphia isn’t the only city with a team of skilled and hardworking officers who are able to perform on motorcycles – Indianapolis, Indiana and Vancouver, Canada are just a few cities with similar teams – but, Binns said, no other city on Earth does what Philadelphia does by holding annual Thrill Shows in order top help raise funds to support the children of fallen first responders.

“No other city in the world does this for children of police and fire fighters,” said the 77-year-old Binns.

In order to participate in the Thrill Show, Binns said officers in the Philadelphia Highway Patrol Drill Team must undergo weeks of training and, Binns said proudly, that he had just completed the training he needed to become a trainer for the officers riding in the shows.

“Our riders, they have to be expert motorcycle riders,” said Binns.

The Hero Thrill Show will be held on Saturday, Sept. 23, starting at noon, for a full day of activities. The events, including a performance by the Philadelphia Highway Patrol Drill Team and many others, will be held at the Wells Fargo Center at 3601. S. Broad Street.

Tickets cost $10 each or $25 for a pack of five tickets for a family. Tickets are available at local police and fire stations as well as by visiting herothrillshow.org