The annual Tour de Fat—a manifestation of bike-centric creativity that includes a parade of thousands of people—took place in our community today. Although I generally travel quickly in the opposite direction when there's mention of a crowd, I volunteered to be a parade marshall. My reason? One of the organizations that greatly benefits from donations at this event is a local bicycle education and advocacy group that also creates and maintains a bike library, from which people can check out bicycles. The group does a lot that has improved my life here. I figured I could do something to help it out. (One of my favorite projects that this group has undertaken is the "You know me, I ride a bike" poster campaign, which features a friend of mine, Barbara Liebler. A weaver and former Interweave Press book editor, Barb currently owns CycleTote. She got very seriously into biking a few years ago while she was in treatment for brain cancer.)
My presentation of the Tour de Fat will be both biased and photo-heavy. It's biased because I was a volunteer and saw the parade from that perspective. I rode at the beginning of the parade with the other marshalls, each of whom "dropped out of" the procession at his or her assigned corner. Because my station was near the end of the route, I got to ride most of the six miles before assuming my duties. I didn't hang around afterward for the festival that follows, with music and beer. (Instead, I went to Bas Bleu Theatre's first Bleu Flame event, held in conjunction with the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department benefit art auction.)
The morning started at 6:15, since I needed to be in costume and makeup and on my bike by 7 a.m. in order to travel the five miles to the volunteer sign-in point by 7:30 (I actually got there in about 25 minutes). I found out on Wednesday evening, at volunteer orientation, that a costume was required. My daughter and I thus had a mere two days to put something together. Temperatures in the 90s were predicted, along with a lot of sun. (Yes, I wore my helmet and high-visibility jacket while biking to and from the parade location, and my pack contained a lot of sunscreen.) My get-up included face paint, courtesy of my daughter. I became especially fond of the spangled fronds on my bike.
Here are a few of the many volunteers listening to last-minute information on timing and procedures:
Here are close-ups of some volunteers:
All of the participants in the parade were required to sign liability waivers, with parents signing for kids. Joining the festivities was free, although people were asked for $5 donations to the bike advocacy and education group. Many provided that and more. In the photo below, volunteers are getting waivers signed and handing out stickers to people who registered (so all the volunteers would know they'd done their paperwork). One of the volunteers in this photo is someone I've known since before she was born. I haven't seen her in a long time and I don't think she would have recognized me if I'd had time to say hello, but she's all grown up now and looked terrific in her fancy outfit.
Two more volunteers with widely disparate costumes:
Here's a bunch of people heading toward the starting point of the parade about an hour and a half before it launched, about to be accosted by volunteers with clipboards, liability waivers, and encouraging requests for donations:
And here is the gathering crowd at the starting point, behind the orange cones. Parade marshalls, including me, rode at the beginning of the parade, so I had a good vantage point from which to observe the horde. An estimated 8,000 people rode in the parade (there may be more accurate numbers tomorrow). Many more people lined the parade route to watch.
I'll be doing a second post with photos of a variety of bikes and costumes, all taken during the parade.