By Wayne Towner
Special to the Times
Whatever the weather, the 16th annual Marietta Holiday Lights Bicycle Tour will be held on the night after Christmas in downtown Marietta and the surrounding neighborhood.
"The ride is a good opportunity for individuals and families to bicycle off a little bit of Christmas fudge," said ride coordinator and founder Roger Kalter. "The ride has taken place during a wide variety of weather conditions from clear and 40 degrees to quarter-size snow flakes and 20 degrees."
The annual ride is designed to gather bicyclists interested in exploring Marietta's streets while enjoying the company of other cyclists and the colorful lights decorating area homes, businesses, parks and churches, he said.
The bicycle ride will begin at 7 p.m. Monday and is sponsored by the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club and the First Unitarian Universalist Church. Kalter said he started the bicycle ride in Marietta after he participating in a similar one many years ago in Cincinnati.
"Because it's the day after Christmas, most people are where they are going and traffic is always very light," Kalter said. "It's a good time to take a leisurely ride through the downtown area and view all of the holiday lights."
Prior to the start of the ride at 7 p.m., participants will gather at the Unitarian church at 232 Third St. and then spend 60 to 90 minutes on the ride.
As a new addition to this year's Marietta event, organizers will be showing a video of the Erie Canal ride in 2010 when seven riders from the club rode its 350-mile length. Participating in that ride were Roger and Betsy Kalter, Judy Lewis, Karen Hunsaker, Nancy Coleman, and Judy and Joe Baker.
On Monday, the group will ride from Putnam to Fourth Street, Fourth to the RiverTrail, the length of the trail to Front Street, Front to Greene streets, Greene to Second Street and then to Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets. Third Street is avoided because it is a state route, Kalter said.
Five salt boxes have been placed along the RiverTrail in areas where there are inclines and where the sun is blocked by houses on Front Street. The boxes may be used by any trail user to distribute salt and sand on iced or snowy portions of the trail. The salt is provided by the city and the volunteer-made boxes are replenished by other rowing and cycling club volunteers.
The ride will end back at the Unitarian church where hot chocolate and Christmas cookies will be served, he said. Anyone wishing to bring treats is welcome to do so, he said. The video will also be shown for the riders then.
There is no charge to participate in the ride and it will be held no matter what the weather is, Kalter said.
Kalter recommended dressing in layered clothing.
Riders need to bring a bicycle, a safety helmet and a light, even if it is just a flashlight taped to the handlebars, Kalter said. In past years, he and some of the other longtime riders have also decorated their bicycles with holiday lights. Children younger than age 14 must be accompanied by adults.
While the ride is free as a gift to the community, participants must sign a liability waiver just before the event begins. For information, contact Kalter at 373-1784 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.