Bike tour to boost local businesses

Urbana, New Carlisle among communities that will benefit from 2,500 riders.

City officials and business owners in Urbana, St. Paris and New Carlisle will make sure 2,500 bicycle enthusiasts get a warm welcome next weekend when the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure passes through the region.

In return, business owners hope the annual bike tour’s participants remember to pack a little extra cash to spend on their journey through southwest Ohio.

The tour, now in its 25th year, is expected to provide a big boost to the region’s economy and perhaps lead to additional tourism in the future, said Marcia Bailey, economic development coordinator for Urbana.

” I know for the retailers and the restaurateurs, it’s all hands on deck,” Bailey said.

When the tour spent two days in Madison County in 2011, Bailey said, there were estimates that GOBA generated about $300,000 in additional revenue for that county’s economy. Bailey said she has also seen some estimates that show a typical bicycle tourist spends as much as $100 a day for an overnight stop.

This year, the seven-day bike tour will begin and end in Urbana, and it will make lunch stops in New Carlisle and St. Paris. The tour, which is scheduled from June 15 to 22, also includes scheduled stops in Troy, Greenville, New Bremen and Sidney. Many of the riders are expected to pay a visit to regional attractions along the way, including Cedar Bog, the Johnny Appleseed Museum and other historic sites and nature areas.

Because Urbana is the first stop on the tour, family members and visitors will also see the riders off and may help boost the number of visitors to the city.

“They’re saying at least 3,000 people between the bicyclists and their entourage,” Bailey said.

Kimberly Jones, New Carlisle city manager, has ridden on the tour with her husband for the past three years and knows the benefits the tour can bring to a city. The lunch stops are relatively brief, but even they can provide big benefits for local charities and organizations that provide lunch to the riders.

In New Carlisle, the Heritage of Flight Committee will provide meals to the riders with proceeds benefiting the organization. In St. Paris, proceeds will benefit Our Town St. Paris, the Pony Wagon Museum and the Pony Wagon Days Festival. Riders will stop at the Smith Park Shelter House in New Carlisle and at recently renovated Harmon park in St. Paris.

“With 2,400 people spending $5 a pop, that’s quite an impact,” Jones said.

Just as important, the tour allows participants to see parts of Ohio they may not otherwise be aware of, said Julie Van Winkle, director of GOBA. This year, the tour will include riders from 41 states and three Canadian provinces, as well as riders from Japan and Switzerland. But the majority of the riders are from Ohio and can easily make a return trip to cities that make an impression.

“It gives me goosebumps because it gives us the opportunity to show off how great a city we are and invite them to come back,” Jones said.

In Urbana, volunteers and city staff members are making sure riders have an opportunity to see more than just the fairgrounds where they’ll camp out. Numerous activities are planned downtown, including live music, a block party and a bike parade. Buses will also take two routes throughout various locations, taking riders to local stores, businesses and restaurants. They will also hand out brochures to advertise upcoming events like the annual Barn Quilt Tour or Balloon Fest in case riders want to return later this summer.

Local businesses are already making plans to make sure the riders feel welcome.

Summer Woodburn, owner of Madison’s Downtown Market and Cafe, said her business will be selling GOBA bags filled with healthy snacks that riders can take on their journey.

“We just want to create a welcoming environment,” Woodburn said.

Pat Thackery, owner of Cafe Paradiso in downtown Urbana, said his biggest concern is making sure there’s enough food to go around. Extra seating will be available outside and all staff members will be on hand to help out, Thackery said.

“I think we’re going to be packed,” Thackery said.

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