Over 400 cyclists set to arrive in Farmington Friday

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Pathway to the Peaks is the name of this year’s BikeMaine tour, with a route that goes from Skowhegan to Pittsfield to Kingfield, then to Rangeley, Hartford, Farmington and back to Skowhegan.

FARMINGTON — Over 400 cyclists are on their way to Farmington this week as part of BikeMaine 2017.

The fifth annual ride, sponsored by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, began Saturday in Skowhegan. This year, it is known as Pathway to the Peaks, showcasing “some of Maine’s most iconic peaks,” Zach Schmesser, BikeMaine event director, previously said.

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Over the week, cyclists from 35 states and five countries will peddle 335 miles from Skowhegan to Pittsfield to Kingfield, then from Rangeley to Hartford and to Farmington on Friday, Sept. 15, before biking to the finish in Skowhegan on Saturday.

The cyclists arrive Friday for an overnight stay at Prescott Field at the University of Maine at Farmington.

Members of Farmington Rotary Club are organizing a Friday night dinner and Saturday morning breakfast for 500 people, serving meals featuring locally grown foods, said Glenn Kapiloff, Rotary president.

The cyclists will have time to explore and shop at some of the unique stores in town, said. Morgan Spencer of Greater Franklin Development Corp. She’s co-coordinating the event for Farmington along with Ernestine Hutchinson of UMF.

In other parts of the country, bike tours are huge. In Iowa, there is a $365 million bike tourism industry, Schmesser said.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine, a group formed in 1992 to advocate for and educate the public on biking, walking opportunities and safety, is really working to expand bike tourism in Maine, he said.  

“We all believe Maine has the potential to be a destination site,” he said. “The economic impact is well-documented. The cyclists spend more money because they are traveling slower, 10 to 15 mph instead of 55 mph, and can stop much easier and for longer periods.”

The BikeMaine idea started when some leaders from the Coalition traveled to Oregon seven years ago to participate in a bike tour. During the tour, they envisioned it as a way to also showcase what a great state Maine is.

“We call it a celebration of Maine people, places, culture and food,” Schmesser said.

If Iowa can draw nearly a million people per day from bike tourism, there’s no reason why Maine couldn’t, he said. 

Local farmers and food producers will benefit. Guided by the Maine Farm and Sea Collaborative, a firm retained by the Coalition to vary and showcase local foods,  a menu featuring locally raised turkey, vegetables, rolls made by Homestead Bakery and apple crisp from local orchards topped with Gifford’s ice cream is planned, Kapiloff said.

The breakfast features Marble Family Farm’s breakfast hotties, farm-fresh yogurt, native grown oatmeal, fruits and more.

Students in the Culinary Arts program at Foster Career and Technical Education Center, taught by Sean Minear, are helping cook and prepare the turkeys and other items.

A committee which includes the event coordinators, Davis, Police Chief Jack Peck and Fire Chief Terry Bell has been working for nearly a year to help plan the logistics, Town Manager Richard Davis said. 

The town will receive a $2,000 stipend as the host community for police and fire protection, he said.

Live entertainment has been planned. A public concert featuring Golden Oak takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at Prescott Field. The public is welcome.

abryant@sunmediagroup.net

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