Time to get 'Loop'y: Loop the Lake Festival celebrates Bemidji’s bicycling culture
BEMIDJI -- The city's bicycle-friendly reputation will be on display Saturday when about 250 pedalers take off on a ride around Lake Bemidji in the first Loop the Lake Festival.
The event starts and ends in the Sanford Center parking lot. Riders will start the 17-mile course between 8 and 9:30 a.m.
"We want to get those people who haven't been riding on their bikes to find out that it's really OK," said Mur Gilman, a retired BSU professor who chairs the Loop the Lake Festival committee. "They'll have lots of rest stops and opportunities to take it on a leisurely manner. My thing is we want to encourage people and let them find out that a bicycle is a good means of transportation, and they can do it, and that it's good for the environment."
As of Wednesday, 210 people had registered for the ride. Online registration will continue until midnight Saturday, and riders also can sign up Saturday morning at the starting line.
The registrants are evenly divided between solo riders, dual riders and households of 3-6 riders.
About one-third of the registrants are from outside the Bemidji area. The first group to sign up was a family of six from Forest Lake, Minn.
Gilman said she was pleased to find out that so many people have signed up to ride as a family.
Loop the Lake is not a competitive race, but is designed to promote physical activity and fun. Several rest stops will be set up along the course, which will run clockwise from the Sanford Center. The rest stops will include food from local restaurants, along with water, mechanical assistance, rest rooms and photo opportunities. Organizers are touting the food vendors as a "Rolling Taste of Bemidji."
Musicians will perform at the starting area and at the Lake Bemidji State Park rest stop. A drumming circle led by Janice Hayworth will be set up at the Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge rest stop.
Signs have been installed to help direct riders through the course. About half the course will utilize the trail system and about half will be on Birchmont Drive, Bemidji Avenue North and County Road 20.
More than 40 local sponsors have signed on, and about 50 volunteers will be out on the course.
"That's a huge show of community support," said Gilman.
Gilman said the committee's biggest challenge was setting the 17-mile course.
"It sounds so simple" to those who are accustomed to biking around the lake, Gilman said. "When you start to ride it in the eyes of someone who doesn't know, there are a lot of little turns that we make that we all take for granted. But I think we're well signed." About 36 route signs have been installed to help guide the riders, and volunteers will also assist at some locations.
Gilman said the organizing committee began meeting last November and established the following goals for the festival:
• Celebrate Bemidji as a bicycle-friendly community and the arrival of Nice Ride bicycles.
• Promote outdoor physical activity, health and clean air.
• Encourage a bicycle-centered culture.
• Showcase our community to visitors.
• Provide a festive atmosphere that is family friendly.
• Contribute to the local economy.
Cost of the ride is $25 for solo riders, $35 for dual riders and $55 for households of 3-6 members. Those who register on Saturday will pay $2 more. Riders can register online at bikebemidji.com until midnight Saturday.
Funds raised by the event will be used as seed money for next year's Loop the Lake Festival.
"We have a goal of 250 riders," Gilman said. "We started with no dollars in the bank. We wanted to make sure we could pay our bills."
The weather forecast for Saturday is favorable, with light winds, mostly sunny skies and a high temperature of 80 degrees. Registrations in the final days and on Saturday morning should help the committee reach its goal.
"It's exactly where I had hoped we would be for a community celebration," Gilman said.