(Above, Sarah Wilson, Scott Jorgensen, Graham Jorgensen (in trailer) and Finn Jorgensen (in red helmet) take off from the starting gate Saturday for the first Loop the Lake Festival, a 17-mile ride around Lake Bemidji. (Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)
Mur Gilman, chairwoman of the Bemidji Loop the Lake Festival committee in Bemidji, said the ride exceeded expectations with 357 cyclists registering for the event. Gilman said organizers had only established a goal of 250 riders, so they were happy to see so many people turn out for the inaugural ride.
“I think it’s going good — the weather helped out a little bit,” she said.
(Above, Mike Guyette, the president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield MN, helps Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht cut a ceremonial ribbon Sunday for the grand opening of Nice Ride. (Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)
Gin Forseman, of Bemidji participated in the ride and said she was surprised at the turnout. It’s great. I didn’t think there would be that many the first time, it’s good; good turnout,” she said.
The event was sponsored by more than 40 local organizations and businesses and was staffed by 50 volunteers. The riders included solo cyclists, duos, and households of three to six Bemidji Pioneer readers. About one third of the participants were from outside the Bemidji area.
The 17-mile route started at the Sanford Center at 8 a.m. with a rolling start. Bikers proceeded to cycle down Lakeshore Trail through downtown Bemidji. Rest stops at Ruttger’s Lodge and Lake Bemidji State Park were provided for a “rolling taste of Bemidji,” which included food, drink and live music. Cyclists finished the ride by looping back to the Sanford Center via the Paul Bunyan State Trail.
(Above, Melinda Neville, manager of Nice Ride Bemidji, stands in front of a rack of Nice Ride bikes at the Diamond Point rental location. Bikes will be available at three locations starting Sunday with a fourth location opening in Bemidji State Park in July. Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, who also took part in the ride, praised the festival for its ability to rally people in the community to do something active.
“This is a great sort of festival and event to rally everyone who might think about biking or doesn’t bike regularly, or bikes all the time to get them out and to brush off their bikes and get them going,” Albrecht said. “It’s a way to get people out and make it easy for them. We always say that if you make the healthy choice; the easy choice people will take it.”
David Olson, a cyclist who stopped off in Lake Bemidji State Park for a short rest, said he and his sisters were riding the loop as part of a New Year’s resolution to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I think it’s great. I can’t believe how many people are out here doing this, this is fantastic” Olson said. “This is what the community needs to do; get more people engaged in fitness.”
The Loop the Lake Festival was part of a weekend Mayor Albrecht proclaimed as “Bicycle Days in Bemidji.” As part of Bicycle Days, the bike sharing and rental program Nice Ride Bemidji was hosted in an opening celebration ceremony at the Paul and Babe the Blue Ox statue at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, at the Visitors Center.
(Above, left to right: Tony Desnick, the director of Greater Minnesota Strategies for Nice Ride, poses for a picture Sunday with Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, Blue Cross and Blue Shield president and CEO Mike Guyette, and Executive director of Nice Ride Bill Dossett at the grand opening ceremony for Nice Ride Bemidji. (Malachi Petersen | Bemidji Pioneer)
Local civic leaders, including from the city and Bemidji State University, along with representatives from Nice Ride Minnesota and Blue Cross Blue Shield, held the grand opening Sunday for Nice Ride Bemidji, a bike-sharing program that is the first of its kind for a smaller city in outstate Minnesota. See more on Nice Ride Bemidji here.
For visiting and biking in and around the first city along the Mississippi River, see HaveFunBiking’s At-A-Glance Bemidji article.