Volunteer Magic

Spokane has no shortage of cycling events. It’s great to have diverse options, but with so many to choose from, how can Spokane support them all? Well, it requires more than attendance. What goes on behind the scenes to make that road race, mountain bike race, cyclocross race, organized ride, not-quite-so-organized ride, or community event happen is the contribution of volunteers.

Bill Bender, Spokefest president, has an all-volunteer board with individual responsibilities who also recruit about 250 volunteers for helping with registration, staffing checkpoints on the day of the event, obtaining permits, obtaining and paying for traffic control by the Spokane Police Department, renting porta-potties, renting street barricades, obtaining a sound system for the start, arranging for volunteer medical support, arranging for and running food stops, obtaining volunteer mechanical support from bike shops, sweeping and marking the course, and getting sponsorship dollars and prizes. Whew!

Wendy Zupan of Round and Round Productions puts on the 24-Hour Mountain Bike Race in Riverside State Park. For that race she’s had to take a different approach. All of the participating teams are required to provide a volunteer, who may or may not be a member of the team itself, to help set up and put away tables and chairs, stuff swag bags, handle late registration, staff the start/finish to track racers coming in and going out, and staffing checkpoints to keep track of racers on the course.

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community. I know a gentleman, Kevin Miller, who does a double shift at Summer Parkways and works all day during Spokefest. Kevin describes himself as “An old hippie who hopes that by volunteering I can help other people enjoy a bike ride. And,” he adds, “maybe they will continue to ride and start commuting and park their car a few times a week. Oh, and to make the world a better place to live.”

Spokane could use more people like Kevin. You may have seen him. He sports a big bushy moustache and wears bright striped knee-high cycling socks. He says “Hi” to everyone passing by. Say “Hi” to Kevin as well as all the other volunteers and thank them for being out there.

Another reason to volunteer can be to scope out an event. Maybe it’s a race or a type of racing you’re not that familiar with but you’re thinking about getting into. Volunteering gives you a close-up view and puts you in contact with people who know the sport and can help you get started. Have you heard people talk about cyclocross or mountain bike racing, but you’re not sure it’s for you? Help set up and break down a course and watch what happens in between. You may have found your calling. The same thing applies to road racing and criteriums.

Volunteering is a great way to have fun and make it fun for the participants. Do you play an instrument? Well, now you have a captive audience, and they will thinks it’s wild that you’re playing for them. Exaggerated traffic control antics, cheering, or just waving hello while rockin’ some wild socks puts smiles on everyone’s faces. It makes the hot days more tolerable, the long days less tiring, and most importantly, makes it more fun for everybody.

Volunteering is also a great way of getting your children involved in the community and the sport of cycling. The first time I brought my kids out to work at Summer Parkways, their attitude was along the lines of “Do we have to?” When they were done, it changed to, “Hey, that was fun.” Bringing your kids out to different cycling events exposes them to different facets of cycling, which may pique their interest.

What’s key here is that the multitude of cycling-related events in our area happen because enough people give of themselves to make them happen for us. And if we all took turns, we’d have a better sense of appreciation to go with all the fun we had. //

Hank Greer is back at the helm of OTM’s Everyday Cyclist column. He wrote about adventure commuting in May.

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