Bicycles and helmets and fun. Oh my!
There shouldn't be any lions, tigers and bears Friday night, but this year's Tour de Belleville with a "Wizard of Oz" theme should provide plenty of opportunities for family fun when bicyclists hit the streets for the ninth annual road ride through the city.
The "Wizard of Oz" cast will be in attendance, including Dorothy, Toto, the Wizard, the Scarecrow and the Lion, according to Debbie Belleville, the director of the Belleville Parks and Recreation.
The theme came about as the city marks its 200th birthday: Bellevillians will be reminded that, "There's no place like home," Belleville said.
So paint your shoes with red sparkles, put a small stuffed dog in a basket on the front of your bike and get ready for this year's Tour de Belleville.
The family-friendly, non-competitive, nighttime bicycle ride is open to all ages, but training wheels and pets are prohibited.
More than 2,200 people participated in the 2013 ride.
As of Monday, about 1,200 people were registered. About 800 to 1,000 people usually sign up the week of the event, Belleville said.
Hal Leventhal is on the Tour de Belleville Committee. He owns Bicycle World in Belleville and held a registration drive this past Saturday. Anyone who registered received a free gift, like a bicycle safety flag, a repair patch kit or a tire lever. During the two-hour registration drive, more than 225 people registered.
"This was double what anyone expected," he said. "It was crazy. It was a good day for Tour de Belleville, that's for sure."
The event begins and ends at Union United Methodist Church, 721 E. Main St.:
* The five-mile course weaves through downtown, going by Douglas School, Jefferson School and the Nichols Center.
* The 15-mile course tacks on additional tour through West Belleville, including a long stretch out on West Main Street before turning back and winding through several neighborhoods, including parts of Swansea.
Residents along the route were notified, according to Belleville, and encouraged to cheer on cyclists if they are not partaking in the event.
The festivities begin at 6:15 p.m. Friday with live music from the Straight Six Band in the rear parking lot at Union United Methodist Church.
The Tour de Belleville ride begins at 8:30 p.m. Riders will be released in waves for safety.
The cost through Thursday is $16 per person. On Friday, the price jumps to $25 per person.
Since the event was created, more than $125,000 has been used by the Parks and Recreation Department to purchase safety equipment for the city, perform maintenance and improve amenities for the bike/walking trails.
Last year, the department bought an $8,500 speed monitor for the Police Department, spent $5,500 sealing and striping a part of the city's bike trail and purchased $800 worth of additional crosswalk signs for elementary schools, Belleville said.
The registration price includes a shirt and water bottle.
As in past years, the race T-shirt is your ticket to ride. This year's shirt will be the color of the Yellow Brick Road and feature a hot air balloon and a few of the characters from the movie, Belleville said.
You can register at www.tourdebelleville.com.
For more information, call the Department of Parks and Recreation at 618-233-1416.
Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2460.