A Humble President

Written by Patrick Stelte - August 2018

el presidente

Last month before a club ride, Mona Will regaled everyone within earshot about a touring event she and Robin attended in a distant land (Midwest). Mona’s adventurous spirit has led her to many events afar and her knowledge and experience matches her expectations. However, she was gob smacked by what she encountered. The entry fee was somewhat expensive and limited to a few hundred cyclists. Upon arrival, parking was not marked nor approved by the business owner who was rather upset about all the unwanted cars in his lot. Registration was sparse and not very informative. This was a pattern for the ride. Pavement markings were nowhere to be seen and the map could have been made from a second grade competition (winner receiving an extra 15 minutes of recess.) The SAG stops were atrocious - card tables with minimal supplies laid out and no attendants. The Century route consisted of riding the fifty mile route twice and the roads looked like they had not been resurfaced since the Nixon administration.

In the last ten or fifteen years, numerous paid rides have popped up to take advantage of the growing “health and wellness trend” with promises of wonderful adventures and scenic vistas worthy of good memories. However, not all rides are alike. Sometimes, sketchy operators see a trend and capitalize with bare minimum resources and pricy entry fees. Mona’s experience is a cautionary tale. By the time word-of-mouth (and social media) warn cyclists about a particularly bad experience, the event operators have made their profit and most likely moved on.

I highlight Mona’s story as a contrast to our Festival Tour. 2018 was the 47th consecutive year the club has organized this companion event to the Three Rivers Festival. From a germ of an idea back in the early 1970s to promote cycling in our community by partnering with a newly popular festival, our all-volunteer club has consistently satisfied cyclists from near and far. I remember my first foray with the Festival Tour in the early 1990s. The memories I have are smiling faces at registration and SAG stops, trading helpful tips with anyone I talked to and catching on to other cyclists and hanging together to the next SAG. I came back most years until I made it a regular “must do” event about 15 years ago.

Now as president, I have been responsible for continuing the tradition. This does not happen without a great deal of people support which start with the club officers. In January, our treasurer, Hugh Smith, began making reservations and inquires for registration and SAG locations, as well as event sponsorship and insurance coverage. Touring Director Steve Pequignot worked with Phil Snider on route logistics and was responsible for maps, SAG drivers and brochure creation while Phil designed and marked the routes. Webmaster Mike Heyes set up online registration and website promotion. Publicity officer Pamela Fennell made sure the Journal Gazette promoted our ride and Newsletter Editor, Scott Tomsits designed our monthly Quick Release with Tour updates. Membership Director Amy Copeland took charge of pre- and day of registration and provided a thorough post-ride accounting. Secretary Johnny Grabowski transported his personal freezer to hold ice cream he purchased for the after-ride treats. These wonderful, dedicated people are the frontline personal, but support is always given when asked and I want to thank the many other volunteers who stepped up. Registration: Jane Lewandowski, Jake Best and Russ Stephens. SAG: Otto Boschet (in-charge), Christie Lines, Jade Armstrong and Roiann Smolinski. SAG drivers: Luis DeVeyra (another thank you for the great pictures), Chuck South, Jody Thomas, Emily Nicholas Nagy and Scott Tomsits. Also a thank you to Brad Smith, Earnie Williamson, Kent and Anne Ellis for helping Phil mark the routes.

Every year I am humbled by the outpouring of help to make this generational event a reality. The weight of expectations and ghosts of past organizers compel me to understand our club mission to promote cycling in our community. We are the oldest and largest in Northeast Indiana and that makes me proud to acknowledge I am a member of Three Rivers Velo Sport. Next year is the club’s golden anniversary and preparations for the 2019 Festival Tour have already begun. I have formed a committee to re-vamp our Festival Tour in recognition of our historic milestone. I will gladly take suggestions concerning next year’s event. You can drop me a note at president@3rvs.com.

Occasionally, I will tell a friend about my involvement with the club. I talk about my love of cycling and how I joined the club to ride with others and share my joy. Many years later, I am recognized as the longest serving president in club history. I relate to my listener that I never intended to become so immersed in this two-wheeled community, but here I am, plunged with both feet in the deep end. This would not have happened without all the relationships and memories I have accrued over the years. Come next spring, I will be on a solo ride, wind a bit stiff and cold, but the sun in my face and I will think about the anticipation of all the new people I will meet in the coming year. The thought will give me a little extra juice to get home and warm up. At the end of a club ride, it is all about the people that give me the experience. May you also anticipate your next memories of a good ride with those around you. Stay safe. The saddle is waiting for you.