The community of La Crosse came together to highlight scenic riding in the second annual La Crosse Bicycle Festival held over Labor Day weekend. The festival attracted riders from nine states and cities all across Wisconsin.
The Festival was developed as an opportunity to showcase the endless rural routes in the area and encourage bicyclists to return to ride any day of the year. The festival is free and includes four days of self-supported rides with a featured ride each day outlined on beautiful maps to help guide the riders.
All rides started from Cameron Park, where local volunteers had maps to help answer questions about the routes and direct Festival visitors to local eateries and other businesses. There were multiple lengths to choose from or if a bicyclist would rather ride a route from one of the other available maps, that option was available as well.
The urban rides attracted large groups each day. A local rider met at Cameron park to take bicyclists around the city of La Crosse on guided architectural tours, to see some the favorite spots for homemade ice cream, and to some other communities for coffee and a Farmer’s Market. The urban rides brought families and friends together and gave local people the chance to see connections to parts of the city they may not have known were accessible by bike.
The Skull Splitter brought out a competitive group for a fifty mile gravel ride/tour/ race. At the start, the riders were given a map and briefed about the route. They rode out together and stayed neutral for the first two thirds of the ride. At that point, the race began with a tricky ascent followed by a a skill-testing descent. Each rider was expected to carry their own water and repair kit, but they were asked to lend a hand if someone needed help.
Evening entertainment was a Party in the Park featuring the La Crosse Storytellers, the Big E Bounce House, and a movie on a big screen at dusk on Friday.
On Sunday, as bicyclists returned from their rides, music and energy filled the streets as the Downtown Sound Festival rolled into motion in the form of a Block Party on Pearl Street. Five bands played on a human-powered stage from 2-9:30 p.m. People lined the streets to enjoy the music and light show. Those willing to produce energy by pedaling spin bikes were rewarded with a cold bottle of water. As the street show ended, enthusiasts were able to follow the bands into some of the local establishments for more music. Weary bicyclists returned home to sleep before one more day of riding.
The most popular ride on Monday was the coffee ride. Multiple groups took a scenic ride out for coffee. It was a forty mile circular ride with the river on one side and views of the bluffs every other direction. It was a perfect end to a successful festival.