Chamber puts planning wheels in motion
By Emily Bialkowski
This summer a bicycle tour sponsored by HaveFunBiking.com will swing through Caledonia, giving the community a chance to showcase its appeal as a tourist destination.
Russ Lowthian, editor of HaveFunBiking.com, visited with Caledonia chamber members on March 27 to coordinate efforts and find ways to “roll out the welcome mat.”
The cyclists actually begin their journey Aug. 8 in Peterson. From there they head to Whitewater State Park and on to Lanesboro Thursday night. Then they ride to Preston and will end up in Harmony Friday night before rolling around and through the circuit to Caledonia, where they will stay the night at the high school or at lodging sites, if they choose.
Each day the cyclists will push 60 miles, and Lowthian said food will either make or break their impression of Caledonia.
“Don’t skimp on food. Food is critical,” Lowthian said. “I’ve had bikers ride all day in horrible weather – thunderstorms – and I thought they were going to string me up, but you give them a good meal, they will be happy campers.”
Food is only one component of what Lowthian describes as a great opportunity to showcase the community. The bikers will want to peruse the town, go into shops, visit with locals and enjoy entertainment.
“If we could do something Saturday evening – a community event, something really fun – and tie it all together … Let’s have some fun,” Lowthian suggested. “I don’t know how late shops are open, but people will be wandering around. People will ship things. I’ve seen big items of furniture go out,” he continued.
The opportunity is virtually endless and can be whatever the community wants it to be.
Potentially adding to the excitement is the fact that Caledonia Community Education has started a new bicycling club called the Caledonia Cycle Paths. Community Education Director Nancy Runningen, who attended the meeting, said she sees great potential with this project. She said there are several cycling enthusiasts in town who may be able to help or offer suggestions. The club continues to invite newcomers and first met April 2 to organize and test interest. Both bicycling enthusiasts and beginners are welcome. Dick Perry is leading the group. Call community education office at 507-725-5139 if interested.
Also voicing support for the HaveFunBiking.com group was Karen Hagerott of the Caledonia Area Convention and Tourism Bureau. She said she was glad to hear there would be time for cyclists to check out the town.
Lowthian said right now there are 20 people signed up for the ride. Registration is open until the latter part of June. “With the chatter I’m hearing, the numbers will be up there to maybe 60 or more.”
Events are capped at 150 participants.
“How can we showcase your community is really important to me. We want to make sure, when we come into town, we patronize your community so people say, ‘I want to come back here,’” Lowthian said.
Chamber members left the meeting with their wheels turning on ways to best take advantage of this opportunity. Whispers of serving turkey in light of Caledonia’s turkey claim to fame were heard.
The chamber will continue to coordinate with Lowthian on this project. To offer assistance, contact chamber board members Dianne Schuldt or Eric Halverson.
For more information on the biking group, visit www.havefunbiking.com.