By the time this issue of the newspaper is delivered, many bicyclists may have already infiltrated the Preston area in preparation for their four-day tour around Southeastern Minnesota. They come as a part of the Bicycling Around Minnesota tour, a jaunt encompassing around 60 to 75 miles of pedaling per day on paved, low-traveled roads.
Bicycling Around Minnesota (BAM) is a nonprofit organization whose focus is highlighting Minnesota communities to an ever-growing bicycling audience, according to their website. The goals of the ride are to promote Share the Road, fitness, tourism and bicycling as a transportation mode as well as to promote the Scenic Bikeways System of Minnesota.
In 2006, the organization came into being with the first ride including 30 riders traveling from Park Rapids to Walker to Longville and back. After that first ride, BAM participants increased three times more than the first ride in North Central Minnesota. As it kept growing, the organization began exploring different areas of the state in which to hold their rides from Northern Minnesota to Western Minnesota.
In 2009, BAM biked from Rochester to Wabasha with an overnight stop in Lanesboro. This year, Southeastern Minnesota hosts it once again, but in a new area that the riders have not been to before.
"Some people from BAM toured our town and decided it would be a great place to have the ride. It is a great honor for Preston," said Preston Tourism Director Sarah Wangen. "They have the tour every year, but they never came to Preston before."
Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 4:30, around 275 bicyclists will begin to register for the tour, which will begin and end in Preston.
"Preston got lucky because we are the place that the tour begins. The first night the bicyclists do not have a catered meal, so they get to go around the town to visit it and have dinner here," Wangen noted.
As participants gather for registration at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds, Wangen herself will be greeting them from her tourism table she will have prepared there.
"The O'Hara School will be open for them to go in and take a look at the history there. Beth Anderson's band, 'Over the Waterfall,' will also be there playing classic rock music for the registration," Wangen commented.
Later that night, the Servicemen's Club also extended their hours for the band. The Club will be hosting a burger night for the tourists to enjoy.
Since this may be the first time many of these riders have ever been to Preston, Wangen hopes the city will convey a "big Minnesota nice" welcome to them.
"I'd like to show them that Preston is a nice destination for themselves and their families. We have a little bit of everything here and we want to give them as many options as we can to keep them coming back here," she said.
As they have opportunity, Wangen encourages businesses around town to put up welcome signs, offer dinner specials or even extend their business hours as a way of greeting the visitors to town.
For the most part, all those involved in the tour will be camping at the different stages of the route including Preston, Peterson, Austin and LeRoy. And since the primary means of transportation for those 275 or so participants in the tour is a bicycle, they have to leave their vehicles somewhere.
"They will be leaving their cars on the east side of the fairgrounds and the overflow will be across from the Public Utilities building," stated Wangen.
The bikers will be embarking on the route on Thursday morning, Aug. 14 after breakfast.
"B&B Olympic Bowling will be catering the breakfast for them at the 4-H building at the fairgrounds," Wangen added.
As the tour wraps up, the riders will be returning to Preston on Sunday, Aug. 17, sometime between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Those returning may be up to shopping and seeing some of the sights in Preston and the surrounding area. And perhaps they will also be planning on another meal in Preston.
"I am looking forward to getting to meet all the people that come. I will be giving them guides and talking to them about all that Preston has to offer," Wangen declared.