BEMIDJI-Despite rainy weather in the forecast, the nearly 1,000 bicyclists taking part in the annual Loop the Lake Bike Festival were rewarded with a mild morning for a trip around Lake Bemidji.
Angie Gora, a member of the Loop the Lake Steering Committee, said this year's ride brought in 961 participants from all around the region, just short of last year's 999 riders who took on the 17-mile ride.
"It has been real nice and steady this morning; we see a lot of people out here with their families," Gora said. "We have been pleased with the turnout."
Riders of all ages and skill levels took on the journey around Lake Bemidji in celebration of biking and physical activity.
Along the route riders could take advantage of eight different rest stations to refuel with food, coffee and water, listen to music, get mechanical help for their bikes or find first aid equipment. Spectators and volunteers cheered and encouraged riders at every stop. Many said that the option to take a break when they needed to was one of the best parts of Saturday's ride.
"The ride was awesome there were a lot of stops and rest breaks along the way, lots of spectators cheering you on," said Nicole Stehly of Bemidji.
One pair of riders had varying opinions of their day after sitting down to take a break at the Lake Bemidji State Park rest station. Sean Crampton said he'd describe the ride as another day in paradise, while Jeremy Crampton was feeling a bit discouraged after dragging himself down by accident on his clipless bike pedals.
"It's been dismal, I fell over," Jeremy Crampton said. "Nah, nothing serious, just seriously embarrassing."
After riding through the finish line arch, participants gathered in the parking lot of the Sanford Center for food, live music and fellowship with fellow cyclists. Longtime Bemidji residents Marty and Robbie Templeton are frequent participants of Loop the Lake.
"We really appreciate the live entertainment and all the little rest stops,. I think the most salient point of the entire event is that it encourages everyone young and old that they can get around the lake and they can do it," Marty Templeton said.
According to the National Weather Service, Bemidji had a 60 percent chance of showers for Saturday. But, Mother Nature was on the riders' side as rain held off throughout the event. "Actually this has been perfect weather because it is not so hot that we can't stand it and I think last year the rain scared a lot of people off in the end," Templeton said. "We ended up getting rained on for the last mile or so last year."
Loop the Lake Volunteer Coordinator Donna Palivec was excited about the turnout, as well. She said the sponsors and volunteers are crucial to its success.
"This event has been built to get people to be active, it's inclusive-our sponsors are amazing and our volunteers, they are the reason that we can make this work," Palivec said.