About 1,200 bicyclists painted downtown Spokane and Riverside State Park with a rainbow of color on a spectacular first Sunday in September.
The first annual SpokeFest was “beyond all expectations,” said Bill Bender, chairman of the volunteer committee that organized the non-competitive riding event. People were still trying to register for SpokeFest at 10:45 a.m., hours after the event began, he said.
After 707 people pre-registered, an additional 500 cyclists registered the day of the event, Bender said.
SpokeFest kicked off at 7 a.m. with a pancake feed. The 21-mile group ride from Riverfront Park through Riverside State Park and back started at 9 a.m. A kids ride that stayed inside Riverfront Park began at 10 a.m. and a bike rodeo event started in the park at 10:30.
Bloomsday founder Don Kardong was the ceremonial starter for the throng that streamed across the Monroe Street Bridge and down into Peaceful Valley for the long ride. The cyclists followed much of the Bloomsday route, although the state park extension along the Spokane River tripled the distance.
On the return, the cyclists had to ride up Bloomsday’s Doomsday Hill.
“The ride is easier than running, but Doomsday was harder on a bike,” Kardong said, looking tall in the saddle of his bike at the top of The Hill.
There’s one other spooky similarity to the famous running event.
The 1,200 riders that signed up for SpokeFest almost exactly matches the number of runners that registered for the first Bloomsday more than 30 years ago.
Enjoying the sunny day, cyclists could be seen fanning out from Riverfront Park like spokes from a wheel as they pedaled back to their homes throughout the morning and early afternoon.