NEW LONDON — From a threshing demonstration, to a talk about state parks and trails to visits to area artists’ studios, 90 bicyclists spent the holiday weekend getting to know west central Minnesota.
Participants in the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota’s ninth annual Bike Minnesota tour visited area communities during rides on Saturday through Monday, according to the tour’s leader, former U.S. Representative and retired Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge David Minge.
Cyclists were based at Sibley State Park near New London, where they arrived Friday. Sibley’s improvement association and the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau co-sponsored this year’s tour.
Riders pedaled out of Sibley on Saturday on their way to Sunburg. During the day’s tour, they watched a threshing demonstration, heard a talk about state trails and parks and visited the Old Log Church.
They spent the next day riding from Green Lake to Lake Koronis and Paynesville, then headed for artists’ studios in New London.
On Monday the group pedaled to Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center on the way to Willmar to visit the Kandiyohi County Historical Society Museum and onto Spicer on the way back to Sibley.
Besides riding as much as 65 miles a day and visiting local points of interest, riders met with people involved with parks and trails and lawmakers. On Sunday they had heard from Rep. Mary Sawatzky, DFL-Willmar, and were slated to meet with Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said Brett Feldman, executive director of the Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota.
“The objective of the ride is to showcase communities where there are parks and trails to make sure the people understand the benefits that parks and trails bring,” Feldman said.
“Here you see today, 90 riders coming through town, eating ice cream and buying things and spending nights in hotels.”
Each year the ride’s planners select a different state park, Minge explained.
“Then we line up places to visit and speakers who can tell us about the history and the economy, activities in the area,” Minge said. “So we learned the Great Northern Railroad coming through Willmar, we’ve had programming about the Dakota War and the loss of the 13 settlers’ lives up by Monson Lake, we heard about the Willmar 8 last night. We’re learning about all these different things as we move around.”
Many of the cyclist have ridden in previous Parks and Trails tours, Minge Said.
“They’re people that are enthusiastic about getting out and enjoying the outdoors. Here we have people who are in their 70s and they’re sleeping in tents on the ground, And they’re enjoying it,” Minge said.
“And we had this hot day yesterday. It got up to 90,” Minge said recalling Saturday’s weather. “And most of the people rode the 65-mile route, and they came back and took a shower, went for a swim and here they are again today.