Bikes, Blues & Bayous

Bikes, Blues & Bayous

Organizers preparing for state’s largest bike ride

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Bikes, Blues & Bayous quickly gained a reputation among the cycling community as one of the most hospitable riding events available.

Organizers of the annual Greenwood bike ride are continuing to pull out all the stops to ensure the participants, and those who accompany them, have the best possible experience.

“Our hospitality is what makes the difference,” said Richard Beattie, one of the event’s founders and a member of its executive committee. “They don’t get that everywhere. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it over and over again: They say, ‘What we like about it is that the whole town gets behind it.’”

With more than 700 participants already registered, Bikes, Blues & Bayous continues to be the largest bike-riding event in Mississippi.

“Registration in the last week has really been strong; so I think we are going to have a good shot at hitting 1,000 again,” said Beattie.

The 12th annual event, presented by the Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce, will be held Aug. 3 and features 11-, 22-, 46- or 62-mile treks for cyclists of all skill levels.

Last year, Bikes, Blues & Bayous had 1,052 participants. An economic impact study released in April reported that on average about 3.32 people traveled with each cycling participant. More than 90% traveled 50 miles or more to ride, and 74% stayed at an area hotel.

“We’re encouraging our partners and our businesses to roll out the red carpet for these people, because that’s what they’ve come to expect,” said Beth Stevens, the chamber’s executive director. “The more you give them to do, the likelier they are going to stay, which increases our tourism tax dollars.”

Stevens said many of the cyclists not only come back to Bikes, Blues & Bayous each year, but they also return for the chamber’s other sporting events or for a weekend getaway.

For the second consecutive year, the Southeast Tourism Society named Bikes, Blues & Bayous a Top 20 event.

“It’s a high-quality event,” said Stevens. “Just the hospitality we provide, it just gives us such an edge. People really speak highly

of our event. ... We’ve definitely got this to a point where we have an established reputation. People know what to expect. We treat them like royalty from the time they get here until the time they leave.”

One of the new events added to the Bikes, Blues & Bayous lineup of activities includes a Bike Expo, which will be held during registration and packet pickup, from 3 to 8 p.m. Aug. 2, at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity’s parish hall.

The church will serve as this year’s Bikes, Blues & Bayous headquarters.

The Bike Expo will be presented by Indian Cycle of Jackson.

“Indian Cycle will be basically setting up a bike shop at our headquarters,” said Beattie.

Also at the headquarters will be exhibitor booths and vendors, and Bikes, Blues & Bayous merchandise will be sold.

New this year is an event for those who are not participating in the ride. Main Street Greenwood and the Viking Cooking School will hold Brie, Blues & Bayous from 9 to 11 a.m. during the cycling event. Brie, Blues & Bayous will take place at Greenwood’s restored Old City Hall building and will include cheese pairings with summer produce from the Downtown Greenwood Farmers Market. Tickets are $45 each and must be purchased by July 27.

Another event added to the festivities is a post-ride pool party at Twin Rivers Recreation. The event is open to all Bikes, Blues & Bayous riders and their non-riding companions. For entry, cyclists must bring their participant numbers.

After cooling off in the pool, riders and their non-rider companions can head over to the Museum of the Mississippi Delta, where they will have an opportunity to tour the museum and indulge in a Taste of the Delta. The food-tasting event will include favorite local dishes, such as catfish tenders.

The festivities will continue at Tallahatchie Flats with Brews & Blues at The Flats. The event will include a live performance by Ben Wiley Payton & Band, a cash bar and hot appetizers. There’s a $10 cover charge per person.

On Aug. 4, a recovery ride led by Bret Freeman will be held. A biker brunch will follow at Station 222.

“We’re trying to get people to stay here all weekend,” said Stevens. “We want people to spend two nights in Greenwood, and they are always looking for things to do after the ride. A lot of people make a whole weekend out of it. ... Most of these people come from out of town, so we wanted to give them a lot of options and showcase Greenwood and all of our great hospitality.”

Beattie said Bikes, Blues & Bayous will have 21 states represented, some from as far away as California and Washington state, and one participant is from the Netherlands.

For the ride’s participants, the best hospitality shown is at the event’s four major rest stops.

In Itta Bena, the town’s residents come out and treat the riders to an assortment of snacks and refreshments. The Itta Bena rest stop has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, and the residents enjoy chatting with the riders.

The next stop is in Schlater at the Crump rest area. This stop is known for its fancy pickle juice fountain.

“There’s a new development, though,” said Beattie. “The pickle juice fountain wasn’t enough for the Crumps. Now, they are doing a pickle slushy. They’ll also have a pickle mascot and pickle balloons.”

The Minter City rest stop is known for its Southern hospitality with its frozen grapes, chocolate-dipped strawberries and pimento cheese sandwiches. Decorated with vases of flowers, it has the atmosphere of a summertime garden party.

Another major stop is the Money Rest Area, which is sponsored by the Greenwood-Leflore Young Professionals. The stop features bottled Cokes, Moon Pies and PayDay candy bars.

This year, Bikes, Blues & Bayous is partnering with the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. All profits from the Bikes, Blues & Bayous apparel sold will be donated to the foundation.

This is a cause that’s important to Beattie, who has Parkinson’s disease.

“It is a message of hope I’ve been trying to spread since my diagnosis five years ago,” said Beattie. “I’ve realized that hope is what is most important to a person who gets the diagnosis of having the disease. There were people from the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s that helped give me hope back in 2014, and now it’s my turn to help others.”

This week, Beattie is participating in the annual RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa, which is about 500 miles. The weeklong event brings out more than 10,000 cyclists. He is riding with the Peddling for Parkinson’s team, which is sponsored by Cleveland Clinic.

“My mission is two-fold,” he said. “First, I want to get the word out about BBB and the great things we have going on in Greenwood related to cycling. But, I also want to create more awareness about Parkinson’s disease and be a part of a team of people from around the country who either have the disease or they’re working in some way to help those of us who do.”

Beattie said he also hopes by participating in the Iowa ride, organizing Bikes, Blues & Bayous and staying physically active that he will inspire others with Parkinson’s to “fight back for their health.”

This year, Bikes, Blues & Bayous features a Viking raffle. Tickets are $10 each. The grand prize is the winner’s choice of a Viking range or outdoor grill. The second-place prize is a weekend stay at The Alluvian hotel, two seats in a Viking Cooking School class and a spa package for two. The third-place prize is a weekend stay at The Alluvian. Prize winners do not have to be registered for the bike ride or present at the event. The winning tickets will be drawn Aug. 3 prior to the ride.

“I’m excited about what we are trying to do with the number of events and extra activities that we are adding,” Beattie said. “That’s going to help us this year to attract more, but it’s really going to help us next year, because word of mouth is what’s grown this event.”

For more information, to register or to purchase a raffle ticket, visit bikesbluesbayous.com.

To volunteer, call the chamber at 453-4152.

nContact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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