Bicycle Celebration Comes to Vicksburg in September

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Gail DeWolf and Paul Selden, both bicycle enthusiasts pose with her ‘fat-tire’ bike on the grounds of the Historic Village.

By Sue Moore

An inaugural bike ride celebration is coming to Vicksburg on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 20-22, organized by a local committee sponsored by Bike Friendly Kalamazoo (BFK). “The idea is to put Vicksburg in the spotlight,” said Paul Selden, chair of the event.

“We want to grow this into a regional thing. For now, it might attract as few as 50, 150 or 500 riders with 100 unexpected walk-ins on September 21; we just don’t know,” Selden said. “The area is ideal riding territory with an added sense of adventure. It wouldn’t have happened without Vicksburg people’s ‘can-do’ spirit. The schools, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, the Mill, all have pitched in to help the cause, which is to increase bicycle ridership and safety for riders.”

One person in the Vicksburg area, Gail Stafinski DeWolf, has been riding since she was five and hasn’t stopped even now, at 70. “I just love to be outside. I leave my home on 29th street each day and ride at least eight miles in rain or shine, even in the winter.”

What DeWolf does that many other bicyclists don’t: She picks up whatever trash she sees at the side of the road. She takes a bag with her on each ride to pick up cans and bottles, finding on average 5,500 per year. She said she likes paying it forward so as not to trash nature.

“My treasures include stolen wallets, women’s purses, even beer tabs I give to a collector. I never know what I’m going to find,” DeWolf said. One day she spotted a bike that had been thrown into a cornfield. It was well hidden but would have been real bad for a harvester hitting it. She pulled it out of the way. She has two bikes, an old Huffy brand fat tire and a backup, both outfitted with a basket and cupholder.

Her ears are always listening for traffic as she rides without a helmet. She finds there is a lot of courtesy in Vicksburg and is more irritated with bike riders who come up behind her quietly. “They should say something before passing me,” she said.

Bike safety is a big part of the upcoming event, Selden pointed out. He lives on a busy Portage road that has just had an application of bike lane striping. Since many people don’t have a trail right next to their driveway, the law allows riding on a sidewalk if there are no signs posted to the contrary. “I always ride with the traffic as I want to behave just like the other vehicles. Most crashes occur at intersections where not everyone has an unobstructed view,” he said.

“People are demanding more bike amenities to accommodate their healthy life style,” Selden pointed out. Running was hard on his knees so he adopted bike riding many years ago. He helped launch Bike Friendly Kalamazoo in 2011. The organization is now a nonprofit and since Selden’s retirement three years ago, the organization decided to organize the Fall Bike Celebration, inspired by the support of local civic leaders, riding clubs and volunteers.

The event will include a Bike Art Prize. The winning art work will be copied onto street banners with $1,750 in juried prizes awarded to the artists submitting their work. Winners will be announced on Sunday afternoon by John Kern, director of the Prairie Ronde Artist in Residence program.

On Friday, September 20, participants will be treated to an ice cream social and event registration at Apple Knockers at 6 p.m., after they have visited the Mill project, Historic Village and possibly the Farmers’ Market or played disc golf. There are rides of various distances planned for Saturday September 21, beginning at the Vicksburg Middle School at scheduled times in the morning. The longest one is to Shipshewana and back. The shortest is a Kids ‘n’ Cruisers parade after lunch. The main attraction is the Quilt Trail featuring two loops, each of about 16 miles in length. An Awards and Recognition Dinner at 6 p.m. that Saturday will honor those who have helped cycling just by having dinner with them, including guests Village President Bill Adams and Manager Jim Mallery. For further details, go to: fallbikecelebration.org.

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