LEWISTON — No one has ever accused Patrick Dempsey of lacking pizzazz.

Just before sundown Friday, the leather-clad actor swept into Simard-Payne Memorial Park on a Harley-Davidson customized specifically for the event.

As they often do when Dempsey rolls in, the crowd went wild.

“I’ve never made an entrance like that before,” Dempsey told the uproarious throngs, rushing through a sea of reaching hands, cameras and phones as he made his way to the stage.

Several hundred people were at the park to help launch this year’s Dempsey Challenge. When Dempsey breezed in on the Harley, most were focused on the actor and philanthropist.

A few, though, were dazzled by the Harley, a modified Sportster painted all black and customized with some pieces from the Harley-Davidson special collection.

“Patrick spent many hours going over exactly what he wanted,” said John Story, managing partner at L-A Harley-Davidson of Lewiston, which provided the bike. “We just finished up last night, actually.”

In the spring, Story said, the business plans to launch a Harley-Davidson ride to raise money for the Dempsey Challenge.

When Dempsey rode in Friday night, he was flanked by a couple dozen bicycle riders from the Challenge to Conquer Cancer, a group from South Carolina that has been riding for the Lewiston event for the past six years.

“They can go anywhere,” Dempsey said, “but they always come here. They ride for the people who can’t ride.”

“We’re just proud to be here to support Patrick and the Dempsey Challenge,”  rider Milton Bowen of Anderson, South Carolina, said.

On the 10th anniversary of the event, which raises money to support cancer victims and their families, enthusiasm for Dempsey was no less high than it was when the challenge began.

While hundreds reacted to the actor’s dramatic entrance into the park, it wasn’t his first appearance of the day there. Earlier, he arrived more quietly, which turned out to be a thrill for some of the event volunteers.

“I looked over and I said, ‘Is that Patrick Dempsey?'” volunteer Darcy Anokye said.

Turns out it was. And it turns out Anokye had been speaking with a cancer survivor at the time, so the two women walked over to meet Dempsey.

“He was more than happy to give that survivor a hug and take a picture with her,” Anokye said. “She was so happy. She said, ‘This means everything to me.'”

Volunteer Colleen Landry also got to meet Dempsey hours before the crowds filled Simard-Payne Memorial Park.

“We talked to him some and he gave us a hug,” Landry said. “He was awesome.”

“Yeah, he was,” agreed Anokye. “He’s always awesome. He’s just so down-to-earth.”

Down-to-earth and Harley-riding, Patrick Dempsey is appreciative of the support: It takes 900 volunteers to make the Dempsey Challenge the success that it is, according to organizers. And that’s not to mention the corporate sponsors and donors who have helped raise more than $10 million for the Challenge since 2009.

“It just goes to show,” Dempsey said Friday night, “just how big this community is.”

Patrick Dempsey leads a group of cyclists across the bridge from Bonney Park into Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Friday evening. Fifteen cyclists rode 1,300 miles from Greenville, South Carolina, to participate in their sixth Dempsey Challenge. Dempsey rode a custom Harley-Davidson from L-A Harley-Davidson into the park to kick off the weekend events. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Patrick Dempsey meets with cyclists from South Carolina at Bonney Park in Auburn on Friday evening. Fifteen cyclists rode 1,300 miles from Greenville, South Carolina, to participate in their sixth Dempsey Challenge. Dempsey met with them before heading to Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston to kick off the Dempsey Challenge weekend. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Patrick Dempsey, left, talks with David Tupponce, president of Central Maine Medical Center, while welcoming participants to the 2018 Dempsey Challenge at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Friday evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lisa Daniels, right, of Sabattus gives Julie Martin of Lewiston a high-five in the Dempsey Challenge registration tent in Lewiston on Friday. Daniels runs registration and had plenty of energy to thank volunteers with high-fives. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The L-A Harley band performs during the Dempsey Challenge Concert in the Park in Lewiston on Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

The Harley-Davidson that Patrick Dempsey rode into Simard-Payne Memorial Park on Friday was custom painted by Jamie Chasse of Wolcott, Connecticut. Chasse’s wife is a cancer survivor. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Patrick Dempsey climbs off his custom Harley-Davidson after arriving at Simard-Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston on Friday evening. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Two-time Dempsey Challenge participant Quinn Patchell, 1½, walks with her mother, Lindsey Patchell, of Millinocket after the two registered for Saturday’s 5-kilometer walk Friday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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