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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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SpokeFest draws more than 2,000 cyclists – and a gorilla

Bill Bender’s fingerprints are all over SpokeFest, and SpokeFest fingerprints are all over him – or at least his hands.

The event organizer posts himself in front of the event’s finish line on Post Street and dutifully high-fives everyone who pedals the nine-, 21- and 47-mile courses that start at Post and Spokane Falls Boulevard.

That would be about 2,000 palms, allowing for late registrants and perhaps a few non-registrants who woke up on a beautiful Sunday morning and rallied to the hubbub.

Bender, president of the SpokeFest Association, said he started his high-handed finish line ritual last year, when finishing cyclists were careening into the vendor area set up on Post just beyond. The brief pressing of the flesh slowed everyone down, he said.

Bender continued this year even though most of the vendors were moved onto Riverfront Park opposite City Hall, where fences directed cyclists at the end of their loop.

Among them were the Gardners – Liz, Jeff, Spencer and Camryn – who had not, mother Liz said, had to stop going up Bloomsday Hill on their nine-mile circuit.

It was a first for the family, she said, although she “dabbles” in short triathlon events, and her husband, Jeff, cycled in the past.

“What a great community event,” observed Jeff, who said strangers were talking and sharing snacks out on the course.

Tammy Fuller rode in on a folding bike fitted with a front basket that she normally uses for short trips to the grocery store. The director of student learning for the East Valley School District said she rode, in part, to salute SpokeFest and Two Wheel Transit for their recent donation of 30 bikes to the district.

There was not enough time to distribute the bikes and train the recipients, Fuller said, but “Next year I’ll be riding with 30 kids on 30 beautiful blue bikes.”

Her husband, Dave, just returned from a 3,400-mile cross-country cycling trip with their son Evan.

“It’s encouraging to see Spokane becoming what it is in terms of a biking community,” said Fuller, who teaches bicycle safety at Chase Middle School.

Todd Conley watched briefly as the starting pack headed west. He said the city has become more supportive in recent years.

“I’ve ridden in this town all my life,” said Conley, who sometimes commutes to Cheney along the Fish Lake Trail.

“It’s just encouraging to see people come out for this,” he said as he climbed aboard his own bike.

Trevor and Garrett Folken were first-timers. As they waited with their mom, Jenna, for the kids race to start, Garrett conceded that his older brother was likely to get around the one-mile course faster.

“Because he has the bigger bike,” Garrett said.

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