Organizers say number of attendees, riders registering for fundraiser during kick-off party up from last year.
In the wind up to the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS, LSR co-chairs Laura Kerr and John Tripp have said participants and supporters should expect to see some breaks from tradition in the 2010 event.
And the changes seem to have already spiked interest — and participation — in the annual fundraising ride.
Kerr said attendance at LSR’s annual kick-off party, held Sunday afternoon, May 16, at Salum restaurant was up significantly from last year. She said 140 attendees signed in at the event, up from 120 in 2009. And 67 riders and 31 crew members registered during the party, compared to 32 riders and 31 crew members who registered during last year’s kick-off party. See video of the kick-off party here.
The 10th annual Lone Star Ride takes place Sept. 25-26, beginning and ending each day at the American Airlines Conference Center in Arlington. Organizers hope to have at least 175 riders participating, and about twice that many crew members.
"For our 10th year, we decided we would toss out our ‘same as last year’ concept and do something different," said Kerr, who chaired LSR in 2009. "Just because we had always done it one way doesn’t mean we can’t do something different."
One of the most obvious changes, the co-chairs said, is the addition of a second, shorter route, complete with full-service crews, moto support and fully staffed pit stops.
In 2009, LSR moved its base camp to the American Airlines Conference Center on the campus of the American Airlines headquarters in north Arlington. The first day of the two-day, 165-mile ride featured a long loop through the countryside northwest of the airport, and the second day’s ride went southeast to Ovilla and back.
That move brought with it the advantage of single starting/finishing point and a central gathering point for participants and supporters.
For the 10th annual ride this fall, the AACC will again be base camp for both days, allowing organizers to add this "fabulous new route option," Kerr said, opening up the ride to what they hope will be an even wider range of riders.
"One of the biggest reasons people have always given for not registering to ride is, ‘I don’t think I can make it that far,’" Kerr said. "But now, for those who aren’t confident that they can do 75 miles each day, we are offering the option of doing 45 miles each day, and that route still includes all the rights, privileges and perks that come with the longer ride."
Tripp said organizers had been considering adding a second, shorter route option for several years, and that having the AACC as home base for the second consecutive year gave them that opportunity.
"We are familiar enough with the area that it is really doable this year to have shorter route options," Tripp said.
The co-chairs said that the longer route this year will be basically the same as in 2009, except that the lunch pit stop will be placed a little earlier in the route, in Haslett. It will also include the century — or 100-mile option — for the more experienced participants who want a longer ride.
The return loop has been redirected slightly, the co-chairs continued, bringing riders back through the Trinity River Bottoms and including a pit stop at AIDS Outreach Center, one of the three organizations benefiting from Lone Star Ride. The other two beneficiary organizations are Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Services Dallas.
"This is a great opportunity for the new riders we are hoping to draw in to see the services our beneficiaries provide. Being able to stop there is a great perk," Tripp said.
While the shorter route option gives less experienced riders a chance to participate in Lone Star Ride, the co-chairs said they have other new activities planned that they hope will drawn in a new array of cyclists who wouldn’t have participated in what may have been seen strictly as an LGBT event or an HIV/AIDS event in previous years.
"HIV and AIDS have grown out of our [LGBT] community over the past few years," Kerr said. "It affects families — all kinds of families. Those people need to be educated and aware and involved, and we are hoping to draw them into Lone Star Ride this year."
Tripp added, "The LGBT community has done a fantastic job for, well, however many years we’ve been fighting AIDS now. But now people with HIV and AIDS are living longer, and one of the most important services now is outreach and education and fighting the stigma of AIDS.
"We want to start bringing in people who are interested in cycling instead of fundraising so we can start getting that message out to them. And we want to bring in people who are just interested in doing something good for the community instead of cycling, getting them involved as crew and getting them to participate in events at the conference center during ride weekend."
Toward that goal, Lone Star is partnering this year with the outdoor clothing and gear retailer REI to hold a "Bike Rodeo" for children, ages 6-11, on the second day of the ride.
A tentative schedule for the rodeo includes a lunch for parents and children, a kid’s bike safety inspection, a safety lecture and a bike rodeo competition. Children participating in the bike rodeo will be able to participate in the LSR Ride-In at 5 p.m. The $20 registration fee will also include a bike helmet for participating children.
LSR officials will set up a separate LSR website for the rodeo where parents can register their children for the event.
Lone Star Ride has also expanded its Lone Star Locker program this year not just to provide loaner bikes for riders who want to participate but don’t have their own bike, but also to purchase bikes at the holidays for children in families affected by HIV/AIDS, called the Lone Star Little Locker.
Proceeds from the bike rodeo will help purchase bicycles to be distributed during the holidays as part of the Lone Star Little Locker program
To help pay for the expansion of the program, organizers held the Passion 4 Fashion event in April at Station 4, raising more than $7,000 to help fund Lone Star Locker and Lone Start Little Locker.
"By the end of March, all 12 of the bikes we had in the locker had been loaned out to people who had already registered and were ready to start training," Kerr said, explaining the immediate need for funds in the program. "We used to get used bikes for the program, but they usually needed a lot of work and weren’t necessarily safe to ride when they first came in. But now we have found a supplier through whom we can get brand new bikes for a really inexpensive price.
"So now, when somebody gets a bike through the locker, they get a brand new bike to ride. And if they raise $2,000, they get to keep the bike," she said.
The 2009 Lone Star Ride was also the first with a designated Positive Pedalers team, Kerr said, and this year the team will be back, branching out to include riders who are not themselves HIV-positive.
"Last year there were 10 registered riders on the Positive Pedalers team, and we hope to grow that to 20 this year. That’s a lofty goal, I know, but I think we can do it," said Tripp, who is himself a Positive Pedalers team member. "We really wanted to open the team up to include not just those who are positive, but those who support us as positive riders, too. The whole point of the team is to educate people about the kinds of issues that positive people struggle with, about our everyday lives, and having them riding with us on our team is a great way to do that."
Tripp said that the Positive Pedalers team captain this year is Michael Mack, and Kerr noted that the team has special jerseys and shirts and other equipment to identify those team members who are HIV-positive and those who are supporters.
The whole idea of the innovations instituted for the 10th annual ride is to attract more riders and more crew members and more supporters. A total 126 riders registered in 2009, with more than 200 registered crew members volunteering. This year, Kerr said, organizers are shooting for at least 175 riders and about 350 crew volunteers. She also said that while only 14 teams had registered in all in 2009, 13 teams have already registered this year.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 14, 2010.