East Lyme's 'Bike, Hike and BBQ' to be held Saturday
East Lyme — To show why open space and historic homes are worth preserving, organizers of an annual event in town decided it was best for people to get out and see those assets with their own eyes.
“We wanted to generate interest in open space and historic places in East Lyme, and actually all around the region, and what better way to do that than to have a bike ride that takes you through town and the participants can see exactly what there is in East Lyme and beyond?” said Mark Christensen, chairman of the steering committee for the Bike, Hike and BBQ event.
The cycling fundraiser for 501(c)3 organizations that support open space and historical homes will take place this Saturday for the third year. The event benefits the East Lyme Historical Society, the Friends of the Samuel Smith Farmstead, the Friends of the Brookside Farm Museum (formerly the Smith-Harris House) and the East Lyme Land Trust, he said.
Christensen said the event has grown each year, with 200 participants in 2016, the first year, and 255 in 2017. The goal is 400 participants this year.
A new addition for this year's event is a partnership with the Friends of the Oswegatchie Hills Nature Preserve to offer hikes, which begin at Veterans Memorial Field, according to the event website.
The event also will include a parallel event with the Foundation for Life's Bikes for Kids program, so underprivileged children in the area communities can receive bicycles, said Dawn Robinson, Niantic coordinator for the program. Families will be invited to have food and participate in arts and crafts and a pie-eating contest, and then at the end, about 20 to 25 bicycles will be given away to the children as a "surprise" (their parents are notified beforehand).
Ken Silvestri and Joe Gaudio, along with their Eliminator Cycling Team, a Niantic-based private bicycling club that has traveled cross-country, are mapping out the routes. Silvestri said they wanted to ensure participants have a great time so they planned rest stops with good food and greeters ringing cow bells to cheer everybody on. They also have a "goody bag czar" to fill up bags for every participant.
They built different bike routes so "there's a ride for just about everybody," he said. The routes range from the "Horrible Hundred" and "Miserable Metric," to the 25-mile ride "No Jive 25!," according to the event website.
The rides, which begin at Brookside Farm Museum, formerly the Smith-Harris House, have staggered start times so everyone ends up back there around noon for music and a lunch served by the Niantic Lions Club, Christensen said.
Christensen said the event is an opportunity for people to enjoy being outdoors and getting exercise. It's also a fundraising opportunity for the historic home and open space organizations — which like any other organization, need money to run their programs — and a means to raise awareness about the need for more volunteers.
Christensen said the event is a unique partnership among the town's Parks and Recreation Department, the different nonprofits and private citizens.
"It's very unique with all of those groups coming together," Christensen said. "It is really not something you’re going to see too often."
More information, including bike and hike routes and registration information, is available at bit.ly/ELBikeBBQ.