As the crickets chirped and a cool breeze blew, more than 300 bicyclists pedaled their way through Valparaiso in the Valpo Parks annual Night Ride. Bikes and helmets aglow, the eager riders set off to get some exercise and commune with fellow biking enthusiasts.
Helene Pierce, Executive Assistant, has been working with the parks department for 22 years and was the originator of the ride. A bike enthusiast herself, she had experienced a night ride in Indianapolis and believed it would be a great idea to bring to Valpo. She pulled together a team of volunteers to plan and execute the ride. That first year, the ride even won an IPRA award for best event. Now in its 9th year, the ride has continued to grow and is a big event for many.
The night ride sets off from the Butterfield Family Pavilion and winds through the friendly neighborhoods. The 15-mile route changes every few years, and this year, the route was designed to pass by the newly-renovated Tower Park, Valplayso, and through downtown. The ride is an excellent way to get a fresh view of Valparaiso.
“I like to see all the people that come out for this. Seeing the mass of bike lights coming down the road is really great to see,” said Dan McGuire, Director of Facilities for Valpo Parks.
Plenty of families came out to tonight’s ride for a fun, family activity. Donna Gazafy has been participating in the ride for the last five years with her daughter Melodie. This year, her other daughters, Amanda and Valerie, joined in on the fun. The family has a long history of bike riding, and this event was a perfect way to continue the family history while enjoying an evening together.
“You don’t see this very often, families getting together and doing something like this, it’s a fun event,” said Gazafy. “I look forward to seeing Valpo at night. It’s so beautiful and peaceful.”
“This is something nice for us to do as a family every year and it’s a nice way for us to see the city. It’s just a nice event to be at,” added daughter Valerie Covarrubias.
Cyclists were able to have their bike checked and prepped for the ride by Leo Frey from Leo’s Mobile Bicycle Services. Frey has been volunteering his excellent mechanical services for the ride for several years. He finds that it’s a great way to give back and enjoy spending time with the cyclists.
“I’ve been a runner all of my life and I’ve gone to many races where people volunteered their time for me to have a good time, so this is my way of giving something back,” said Frey.
Valparaiso police were out blocking roads for the bikers as they took off into the night, bike lights blinking against the inky sky. The event went off without a hitch, and Pierce is well aware of the excellent work it takes from her team of committee members and volunteers each year for this event.
“We couldn’t do this without all of our volunteers, our committee and the people who participate. If they didn’t come out and participate, we wouldn’t have a reason to be here doing this,” said Helene. “We love that they come out and that they enjoy Valpo Parks.”
For more information about the Valparaiso Parks Department, and to find more upcoming events around Valpo, check out their website: http://www.valpoparks.org/.