Fun-filled family event joins Natchez Bicycle Classic lineup this year

Published 5:53 pm Friday, May 31, 2024

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NATCHEZ – A new Friday night activity welcomes fans of the Natchez Bicycle Classic this year.

The annual event takes place on June 8, bringing dozens of cyclists to Natchez for the popular annual race.

“We want to try and get more local people involved and make it family friendly,” said Lyn Fortenberry Jenkins, president of the Natchez Adams County Chamber of Commerce. “We’re going to do a cycle fun ride.”

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Jenkins previewed the event during a presentation to the Natchez Rotary Club this week.

It will take place at 8 p.m. Friday, June 7, after the packet pickup party at Smoot’s Grocery.

“At 8 o’clock everyone can line up downtown,” she said. “Parents can bring their bikes and the children, as long as their wearing helmets, and decorate their bikes with glow-in-the-dark, blinky stuff … and we’ll have a mile and a half fun ride.”

The ride will take riders along High Street to Rankin Street, through Memorial Park and down Washington Street back to Canal Street. The ride will end at Smoot’s Grocery.

The fun ride is a free event, and Jenkins said everyone is encouraged to participate.

The Natchez Bicycle Classic starts with an 8 a.m. ride on Saturday, June 8. From 11 a.m .to 2 p.m., a post ride gathering in front of the Grand Hotel will feature food and live music. Jenkins said the public is invited to come see the riders.

“I will tell you the riders love seeing people, not just the riders themselve. They love seeing people, especially if you’re sponsors … At least just come through.”

The Natchez Bicycle Classic is organized by the Natchez Young Professionals organization. The race began in 1989 and continued through 2000, until it was discontinued. The young professionals  revived the event as a ride rather than a race.

“We’re trying to build a large-scale, long-term event,” said Curtis Moroney, who has been involved with the classic since its earliest days. “We’re trying to get more riders to come every year because cyclists will travel a good distance off their bikes in order to get a good distance on their bikes.”

Moroney said the event draws riders from throughout the region, and he has been traveling throughout the state to generate interest and participation. “If we can get this event to a certain size, say we’re pulling in several hundred participants, most of those participants are going to be from out of town. … Once you get one of these events to a certain size, it starts to snowball.”

In the early 1990s, the Natchez Bicycle Classic drew about 400 riders, along with their support times.

“We have incredible places to ride here in Natchez,” he said. “Even just the ride out to the Trace … is a beautiful ride.

“Once you get to the Trace, it is a fantastic place to ride a bicycle.”

Moroney added the Natchez Trace is listed among the best bicycle rides in the United States “and we’re on the good end.”

The Natchez Bicycle Classic offers several different rides and courses, based on riders’ interests and distance, from 15 miles to 40 miles, which takes riders to Church Hill. The longest ride is 62.5 miles through the Church Hill Loop on Highway 553 to the Natchez Trace and back to Natchez.

“We’ve got a number of different routes for different types of riders, depending on what they want to do,” he said.

“We also have different surface rides,” Moroney added, describing a multi-surface course that includes Cemetery Road and MLK down to Anna’s Bottom.

“It’s just a beautiful ride.”

The classic drew 115 riders in 2023.

“We’re trying to make this event for Natchez,” Jenkins said. “We can’t do this without your support.”