ELIZABETH—Preparations are well underway for the 10th Annual Tour de Elizabeth, scheduled rain or shine for Sunday, May 19, a community driven event that showcases Elizabeth’s heritage, history and opportunity, and attracts a great diversity of bicyclists who enjoy fun, exercise, and a healthy way to see the city.
The 10th Anniversary inspired this year’s theme, “the Ten Things I like about Elizabeth.” The 15-mile ride treats its riders to views of the business, historic, diverse, recreational neighborhoods which boast history and the promise of opportunity. Previous tours, with themes like “Elizabeth in the Movies”, Elizabeth’s Architecture, Elizabeth’s Diversity” have attracted thousands of Elizabeth and Union county residents, and riders from all parts of the State of NJ and Northeastern United States. Funding from a Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders HEART (History, Education, Arts, Reaching Thousands) has made the theming of the Tour possible.
The great diversity of backgrounds and ages of the participants makes the Tour a very special event. Lorrie McGough of Roselle Park has ridden the past three tours and this year has volunteered to become one of the ride marshals, who help guide cyclists of every age and skill level around the 15 mile course, which is assisted by the Elizabeth Police Department who close intersections as the riders pass.
McGough is enamored of the event, “…riding the Tour de Elizabeth from start to finish, the festive activities such as the entertainment, prizes, and the freebies from vendors (educational information too) make for a fun-packed day. But I must admit, what I truly enjoy is how the community comes out to cheer on the riders; it really is a lot of fun! I welcome the opportunity to lend a helping hand to this event.” McGough has participated in dozens of cycling events, and even rode here bicycle across the US in the BIGRIDE in 1998 to raise funds for the American Lung Association.
The organizers of the annual Tour and Groundwork Elizabeth, which oversees the Bicycle Steering Committee have planned the route so that it can be ridden safely and enjoyably, with views of urban and natural beauty for riders of every skill. Most hills are avoided. Fortunately for all riders, City of Elizabeth police provide escorts and traffic control officers so that cyclists make it safely through the many road intersections. Although the Tour has attracted riders as young as 8 and as advanced as 80, the Safety portion of the Committee led by the Police Department stresses that riders should have a basic level of competency and children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by an adult.
Pre-ride radio station NJ 101.5 will be at site, hosting contests and awarding prizes. DJ’s from Colorblind Productions, who have been assisting at the Tour since 2004 will continue with announcements, music, and entertainment as well. After a small group of advanced cyclists make a quick departure in a pre-ride group, intermediate riders get going, taking a more leisurely pace to enjoy the sights of the city. And finally, families with younger children set out. There is also a point half-way through the route to turn off and be back at the starting point if a rider does not feel up to finishing the ride. The site in front of City Hall will be set up with display tables for the sponsors and other organizations that want to share their products and ideas.
And should anyone have a flat tire or other mechanical problems along the way, there will be a “sag wagon” trailing the ride to pick up those needing a lift back.
Mayor Chris Bollwage has been an integral part of the success of the annual Tour from its very start and will be riding the Tour this year. “The Tour is one of the City’s most popular events. Hundreds of riders of all ages from near and far come to Elizabeth to participate,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “Whether they are first timers or have visited time and again, the cyclists get to take a ride around our diverse neighborhoods – exploring our restaurants and historic buildings, showing them what Elizabeth is all about.”
The Tour de Elizabeth is organized by a dedicated group of Committee members from all walks of life, and who can be recognized for their orange shirts on the day of the Tour. Hosting the ride are Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, the City of Elizabeth, the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership, the Historic Midtown Special Improvement District, the Elizabeth Development Company, and the Greater Elizabeth Chamber of Commerce, and it is supported by its many loyal sponsors and by admission fees.
Riders can register by downloading the registration form at elizabethnj.org or groundworkelizabeth.com or by calling 1-908-289-0262. Riders can also register and pay online by accessing the two websites. Forms are also available at bicycle stores and other venues across Union County. Last minute registration on the morning of the ride beginning at 7:30 a.m. is also possible at the event site, 50 Winfield Scott Plaza. Riders are encouraged to register early; early registrants will receive a free hat or T-shirt courtesy of Tour sponsors Elegant Headwear and T-rific T’s.
The Tour’s sponsors enjoy benefits such as recognition on posters, tables at the event site, media, and free riders. This year’s sponsors include: the Elberon Development Company, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (NJ-20th), Birdsall Service Group, Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery, the Elmora Pharmacy, the Elizabeth Avenue Partnership Atalanta Corporation, Liberty Payroll Company, the Historic Midtown Special Improvement District, State Farm Insurance, Angel Rodriguez office, Infineum USA, LP, the Suburban News, the Star Ledger, the Elizabeth Rotary Club, the Elizabeth PBA #4, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, Investors Savings Bank, and American Water. Interest is building sponsorships are still available by calling Groundwork Elizabeth at 908-289-0262. A full array of tables for sponsors and services will be exhibited at Winfield Scott Park on Tour day.
Funds raised by the event help pay for its amenities and also go towards helping Groundwork Elizabeth accomplish its mission of environmental sustainability in the City by “improving places, improving lives”. Groundwork oversees a growing community driven Community Gardening Program spearheaded by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (20th District, NJ) called, “Come Grow With Us”, which promotes healthy locally grown foods. Quijano is expected to ride in her first Tour. Groundwork is also working with the City’s CDBG program and Union County College in a Green Workforce Initiative program, and was instrumental for helping assemble a group of stakeholders in the City and the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders to help design and construct a portion of the Elizabeth River Trail. It also hosts a group of youth called the “Green Team”, who are easily recognizable by their signature green t-shirts and white Groundwork logo.
This year’s Tour theme of the “10 places I like in Elizabeth” gives community members and riders a chance to post their opinion on historic and cultural sites and events that are meaningful to them. One of the sites on the list is the First Presbyterian Church on Broad Street, which in 2008 received a new steeple. The Church is the center of activity for the 350th Anniversary of Elizabeth’s birth. Riders and spectators are invited to join the Tour de Elizabeth Facebook page to weigh in with their favorite 10 places in Elizabeth, with any questions, and organizations and companies interested in sponsorships to the Tour are welcome to call 1-908-289-0262.