Friday, August 22, 2014

A Necessary Rebooting?

For many years, the last weekend before the Labor Day weekend has meant a weekend of bicycle racing and other events near Recreation Park in Binghamton, New York. The race, for many years, was held where the late Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame grew up.  The streets are residential, somewhat hilly, and parking to visit was easy.

This year, the festival is moving to downtown Binghamton, where...well, it just isn't the same.  I've worked in downtown Binghamton for many years, and while there are positives, there are also negatives.  Lack of parking and lack of shade, for two.  It's just a different vibe. 

Don't get me wrong.  I go downtown for JulyFest and I sometimes go to First Friday. But there was just something special about the Chris Thater NOT being downtown.

Although I like to see events come to downtown, I have mixed feelings about this.  I loved having a world class bicycle racing event in a residential neighborhood in a small city of about 47,000 people. There is nothing like seeing bicycles racing through green, flowery neighborhoods filled with single family houses.  The neighborhood that inspired some Twilight Zone episodes. 

So, this is what the racing looked like in 2013.

Going up a hill.
Professional bicycle racers from all over the world compete.

Here, the cyclists are going uphill and have slowed down enough to have their picture taken of.
Bicylists in sun glare.
This is the venue where the races will take place tomorrow.

My question:  was the move to downtown rebooting a good one?

We'll see what happens this weekend.

I will think positive.  It will all work out.

Here's a post from 2010, with some edits which gives a brief history of this race.

Bicycles and Bluegrass

Such a wonderful thing that has arisen out of tragedy.

In 1983 a student by the name of Chris Thater, while cycling, was killed by a drunk driver near Harpursville, NY.

His friends would not let that senseless death rest.  Rather, they turned it into one heck of a memorial.  The Chris Thater Memorial.  A two day bicycle race held in a residential neighborhood in Binghamton bordering Binghamton's Recreation Park, made somewhat famous by several episodes of the Twilight Zone.  (Rod Serling grew up nearby and spent a lot of time in that park), it celebrates "Stop DWI" and brings bicyclists from all over the world to our small city.

For the 27th year, bicyclists assembled from all over the world: Australia, Guyana and more (even Asheville, NC).  The scene:  surreal.   Neighbors set up lemonade stands or sit on their lawns and watched the riders. Riders sped around blocked off streets (some posts protected with hay bales) at 30-35 mph with local residents cheering them on and ringing cowbells. In the park there was a mix of people listening to music, dancing, gyrating with a hula hoop, visiting the refreshment stands.  Residents and racers rode bicycles through the park. ( I talked to a woman who came in with a tandem recumbent bicycle).

Mission in Motion was there, and I briefly was able to talk to a team member I know before her race started.

This year, an expanded music lineup entertained the crowd.  What a blast, hearing good music while watching the riders going around and around.  Every 2 1/2 minutes or so the pace car came by, followed by the pack, speeding in back of the stage.

They say upwards of 10,000. people come each year.

Here are some of the bands we enjoyed:
One Click Culture
The Terry Walker Project (sadly, the sound system never quite worked for them - but if you love Blood, Sweat and Tears you'd love them.  And, they did an unbelieveable cover of James Brown's Living in America;
Dirt Farm

Both spouse and I were somewhat overcome by the sun and never got to see another highly regarded band from Rochester, the Boogiemen.

This year, not a cloud in the sky, and I have a sunburned neck to testify to that.  That's not usual weather for Binghamton.  One could almost think Chris Thater was smiling down on us, knowing his untimely death was not in vain.


  1. I like the title you've coined to your blog post. Rebooting. It really fits nicely with the post and biking really give that necessary rebooting charge.
    Dorit Sasson
    Giving a Voice to Your Story

  2. Great post! This seems like a great event to be a part of :-)

  3. This made me homesick for Western New York.

  4. I've never actually seen a bicycle race in real life before. And that's amazing that they've created something so big and wonderful in honour of their friend.

  5. Wow! I'd really love to watch a bike race!

  6. What a fun event for the community, Alana! When we lived in Iowa, we loved it one year when the big statewide bicycle race, the Ragbrai, came through our little town of Story City. It was like a big party, with thousands of bicyclists zipping through town all day long. I would have liked to have been one of them, but in lieu of that, it was awfully fun to watch and to cheer them all on!


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