Participation up 26 percent for bicycle tour

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Jim Pozy, treasurer of the Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails, points bicycle tour participants to resources at the shelter house at the Prairie Grass trailhead behind the Madison County Senior Center.

(Posted June 16, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

After putting on an event that attracts hundreds of participants, it can be fun and enlightening to go through the statistics.

Jim Pozy, treasurer of the Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails (FMCPT), did just that following the 18th Annual Strawberry Festival Bicycle Tour held on June 12. FMCPT, an all-volunteer group that maintains the bike trail in Madison County, hosts the event.

Arguably the most exciting stat from this year’s tour was the number of participants–277 compared to 220 in 2019. (The event was not held last year due to the pandemic.) That’s a 26 percent increase.

“Riders noticed the increase, as well. They said, ‘We felt cramped up, and we wanted to get out.’ So, of course, some of that increase can certainly be attributed to people having a post-COVID-19 event to enjoy,” Pozy said.

One of the biggest events FMCPT hosts each year, the tour offers 21-, 44-, 66-, and 100-mile routes, break stops stocked with refreshments, and plenty of volunteer support. The routes wind through Madison, Clark, Fayette, and Greene counties.

Participants come from all over, and that’s where some more interesting numbers come into play. Pozy went through the registrants list and calculated that 27 percent of this year’s riders hailed from Columbus proper, while 7 percent were from Pickerington, 6 percent were from Hilliard, and similar numbers from some of the other Columbus suburbs. He noted that 7 percent of the riders were from London.

Grandview residents Eric Mialky and his three daughters, (from left) Emma, Clare, and Anna, were among the record number of participants in this year’s London Strawberry Festival Bicycle Tour.

“We also had people from Dayton and Beavercreek, Cincinnati, Marysville, and far and wide,” Pozy reported. “And we had four riders from out of state–one from Illinois, one from Pennsylvania, another from Michigan, and one from Maryland.”

Of those who rode, 40 percent were female and 60 percent were male. The breakdown of how many people rode each of the route options presented a bit of a surprise.

“We had even more people doing the 100-mile route than we did the 21. That didn’t use to be the stat, but the 100 is becoming more popular,” Pozy said.

Here’s this year’s breakdown: 21 miles, 14 percent; 44 miles, 30 percent; 66 miles, 38 percent; and 100 miles, 18 percent.

Another exciting number is $9,000. The tour raised just shy of that amount, all of which goes back into the trail for maintenance, improvements, and beautification. The Strawberry Festival tour and the Ride with the Ox tour, held on Labor Day in conjunction with West Jefferson’s Ox Roast, are two of FMCPT’s main fundraisers.

And here’s one last number to share: 25. At least that many FMCPT members, friends, and supporters volunteered at the event. They worked three to 12 hours each, some starting at 5:30 in the morning, setting up in the dark, to allow riders to get an early start to beat the heat.

“It takes a lot of people to run this thing successfully,” Pozy said. “And they did it all with a smile because we love the trail ourselves. It’s a good cause–to raise money for the trail. People were pretty jazzed about working.”

All of this adds up to something that can’t be quantified with hard numbers–buzz.

“We got so many positive comments on the ride this year,” said Dr. Gregg Alexander, FMCPT president. “People get that warm, friendly, good-time buzz, then next year they are telling their friends and bringing more people with them. I’m optimistically inclined that we won’t see a dropoff in participation next year, that we will see an increase again.”

Participants in the London Strawberry Festival Bicycle Tour head out on the bike path at the Prairie Grass Trailhead located behind the Madison County Senior Center in London.

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