Saturday’s Pedalfest mixes cycling, music

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September 8, 2015 - 12:00 AM

Allen County, with its network of trails and handful of annual running events, is in a position to enhance its reputation as a bright spot for “active tourism” when it launches the first ever Portland Alley Pedalfest this Saturday.       
Billed as a bicycling and music festival, the two-day event kicks off with an organized bike ride during the day on Saturday; live music, food vendors and a beer garden in the evening; and, on Sunday, self-guided tours across Allen County and beyond (route maps provided).
The ride, open to cycling die-hards and gentle hobbyists alike, offers participants a choice of five routes — 13, 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles — all of which begin in Riverside Park at 8 a.m. The beer garden opens at 1 p.m. and the bands spark to life at 5. 
According to one of the event’s primary consultants, Randy Rasa — who moved to Iola two years ago on the strength of the town’s bike-friendly potential — the festival embodies the same two-pronged hope that underpins the county’s native trail projects: “We want to bring people to Iola and we want to get local people riding.”
Organized by Thrive Allen County (of which Rasa is a board member), Saturday’s event is modeled, in part, on Missouri’s Pedaler’s Jamboree, a bike and music festival on the Katy Trail. In only a few years, said Rasa, the Boonville-based event has swelled from a few hundred cyclists, on that first ride, into one the country’s largest attractions of its kind, drawing more than 3,000 riders this year — and serving as a shot to the arm of the area’s rural economy.
It’s important to Rasa and to the organizers at Thrive — who have spent months coordinating the details required to achieve lift-off on an event this size — that the festival redound to the benefit of the entire community and not only to cyclists. 
“One of the things we wanted to do in conceiving of Pedalfest, instead of making it a single-day ride, we wanted people to stay overnight. We wanted them to get a chance to experience the town a little bit more — eat at local restaurants, shop at local shops,” said Rasa.
Registered riders who do not choose to stay at one of Iola’s three motels are cleared to camp in a section of Riverside Park.
“One of our goals, too,” said Rasa, “was to bring people to small towns in the area. That’s why we routed it through Elsmore and Humboldt and Moran.” The longer routes will also include Chanute, Stark, Savonburg, Mildred, Kincaid and Colony. “We wanted those places to have a little economic hit, too.”
Registration, which is open until ride-time, has already drawn participants from various points on the map. The cost of entry is $45 ($20 for the 13-mile “Family Fun Ride”) and includes, besides access to the full menu of events, a Dri-Fit T-shirt.
Access to Saturday’s live music, food, beer garden and activities in Riverside Park, however, is free to the public and runs until midnight.
Contact Thrive Allen County for further details or to register: 620-365-8128 or at www.thriveallencounty.org/pedalfest
Wednesday’s Register will highlight a couple of the event’s local participants.

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