BEMIDJI-Creating a love for biking, physical activity and inclusivity are all goals of Saturday's sixth annual Loop the Lake Bike Festival in Bemidji.
"Bemidji, as a bike-friendly community, we wanted an event that would encourage people to get on their bikes and be physically active," said Donna Palivec, Loop the Lake volunteer coordinator.
The Loop the Lake Festival is a family friendly celebration of biking. It will begin at the west parking lot of the Sanford Center on Saturday, June 15. Start times for riders can begin any time between 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. Breakfast items and photo opportunities will be available for riders before they begin their 17-mile journey around Lake Bemidji.
Palivec said that the start times were put in place to ensure safety and to let out-of-town riders start at their own leisure.
"About 40 percent of riders are from Bemidji, but we have the rest that are out of town," Palivec said.
This year's route will consist of paved trails around the lake and five different rest stops that will provide riders with everything from live music and food to mechanical help and first aid. Rest stations will be located at the Sanford Center, the Outdoor Program Center at Diamond Point Park, Ruttger's Birchmont Lodge, Lake Bemidji State Park and White Tail Crossing on the Paul Bunyan Trail.
Those who wish to extend their bike ride and travel farther than 17 miles can find an alternative route map on the Bike Bemidji website to aid in planning their ride.
Palivec says that last year's rider total hit 998 participants. As of June 11, the total number of riders expected was about 800 according to completed registrations.
Due to safety concerns and the rapid growth of the event, there will no longer be any on-site registration the day of the event. Loop the Lake will also be capping off the amount of participants that can ride at 1,200 people.
"It is difficult to plan for safety and food." Palivec said. "In the past we have had 100-250 people come the day of the event."
Wednesday, June 12, is the last day to register to ride. Applications materials can be found on the Bike Bemidji website-www.bikebemidji.com. Registered riders may pick up their packets on Friday, June 14, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Sanford Event Center parking lot.
Members of the Steering Committee for Loop the Lake also encourage participants to wear helmets and pick up a reflective bike sticker at the Sanford Center while supplies last.
The weather forecast for Saturday shows a chance of rain, and Palivec is aware that Mother Nature is not always on their side. The start of the race can be delayed up to two hours if the local weather radar shows chances of bad weather clearing. If the weather is set to stick around longer, the event will be canceled.
Loop the Lake relies heavily on sponsors and volunteers; more than 50 sponsors and 110 volunteers help put on the event and set up. Palivec said that the success of Loop the Lake would not be possible without the return rate of volunteers and sponsors.
"One of the most valuable pieces we have as an event, is that our volunteers return year after year," Palivec said.
On Saturday, Bemidji Brewing, KAXE and KBXE will be sponsoring a Bemidji Block Party from noon to 8 p.m. on America Avenue and Second Street. There will be local food, live music and other activities available at the party.
Natalie Hilden is the Pioneer’s summer reporting intern. Originally from Nevis, she is a senior at South Dakota State University.