Note to event organizers: All it takes to coax hundreds of biking Portlanders to your event — even in temps hovering near the 20s — is to make it carfree and serve free hot drinks.
Last night was the first-ever bike-only night at Portland International Raceway’s annual Winter Wonderland holiday light spectacular. The folks at PIR create dozens of light sculptures and let folks roll around the race track taking in the festive sights. Usually it’s a treat only people in cars can enjoy, but this year, thanks to some persistent nudging from local bike advocates, they had a Bike Night.
I’m proud to report that, even with a windchill that put the temps into the teens, lots of people showed up last night. The best part? Many of them were families with little ones.
I bundled up my 4-year old, plopped her in the trailer with a bunch of blankets, then met up with two other families en route to the track. When we got there the place was hopping. A recumbent club had arrived on scene, lots of little kids were running around, and there were free hot drinks for the taking.
Bike Gallery stepped up as official sponsor of the event. They provided free hot cocoa and owner Jay Graves even offered his warmed up van for anyone near freezing. Said Graves; “There are more people here than I expected. It’s been great. Right when it opened tonight, there were a lot of families that came through.”
Across the way was Todd Roll and a group he was leading as part of his Pedal Bike Tours ride. One woman was passing out candy canes and others topped off their cups with hot tea. The mood was festive, friendly, and fun.
With our kids getting impatient to see the lights (who could blame them!), we rolled onto the track. It reminded me of It’s a Small World at Disneyland. I could hear the giggles and ohhhs-ahhhs coming from the trailer behind me. There was lots for them to see, including a huge dragon with a Santa hat on (they loved it).
As the night grew colder, we only made a quick stop back at the entrance before pedaling hastily home to our warm beds. Besides a little accident by my friend Joe (he rode into a cable holding one of the light sculptures and cut open his lip!), it was a memorable night on many accounts. We won’t soon forget the lights or the cold.
Thanks to everyone how made this event possible. Hopefully next year we’ll have a bit warmer weather and even bigger crowds.