Greg Sabatino photo Organizer Mary Forbes enjoys some spring sunshine at the Potato House, where several of the events surrounding the 2018 Williams Lake Bicycle Festival are scheduled to take place.

Williams Lake Bicycle Festival aims to foster community

May long weekend filled to the brim with mountain bike, rafting and entertainment

It’s shaping up to be a great spring to be a mountain biker in the lakecity.

After last summer’s wildfires put a screeching halt to the mountain biking season damaging several portions of trail networks in the region in the process, a local resident is organizing what’s being billed as the 2018 Williams Lake Bicycle Festival in hopes of fostering regrowth and togetherness within the community.

The festival will feature a jam-packed weekend of riding and entertainment from May 19-21 over the May long weekend, while incorporating a cultural experience unique to the region.

“I wanted to have a big shebang,” said organizer Mary Forbes, who is the waste wise co-ordinator with the Cariboo-Chilcotin Conservation Society, along with being a mountain biking enthusiast.

Originally, the BC Enduro Series race was slated to touch down in the lakecity — just as it has for the past two years — however, due to the wildfires, organizers decided to postpone hosting the event again until 2019.

“We didn’t want to lose the momentum of people coming to Williams Lake to mountain bike,” Forbes said. “So I’d expect it’s going to be gigantic.”

Gigantic, perhaps, is an understatement as a jam-packed lineup of events is slated for the weekend beginning Saturday and finishing Monday.

Planning for the event, Forbes reached out to all the heritage houses in the region for partnership and has involved the Potato House Society, the Xat’Sull Heritage Village, the 150 Mile Little Red Schoolhouse and the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin at the Tourism Discovery Centre to join in on the festivities with several events tailored to highlight each heritage destination.

The festival will ride into action Saturday, May 19 with a ‘Critical Mass Ride’ beginning at noon starting from the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin at the TDC for a downhill ride that will lead to the Potato House.

There will also be a Kids Bike Parade Saturday starting at 2 p.m. from downtown Williams Lake to the Potato House.

Capping off the events for the day will be a Potato House Garden Party featuring live music from Vancouver band Chase the Bear starting at noon, and running until midnight.

Forbes said there will be a family-friendly beer garden, food vendors and beverages, including the famous Potato House rhubarb juice.

“There will also be an open mic Saturday night and we’ll be featuring a bunch of local entertainers,” she said, noting the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society has provided funding for the sound equipment for the event.

Sunday morning, things will continue to speed along with a mountain bike ride from 9 a.m. until noon at the new downhill trails at the Xat’Sull Heritage site from the Soda Creek band office to the Heritage Village.

Afterwards, participants or, anyone who wants to attend, will enjoy a traditional feast at Xat’sull Heritage Village.

Also Sunday, from 5 to 9 p.m., there will be a Kids Old School House Dance with an 1890s theme at the 150 Mile Little Red Schoolhouse.

“There will be a dinner there, too, featuring meat pies and kids games,” Forbes said.

On Monday, May 21, riding activities will ramp up once again with an adult/teen road bike ride starting at 10 a.m. from the 150 Mile Little Red Schoolhouse along Mountain House Road and back to the TDC. This is a long-distance road ride, Forbes said, adding beginners are welcome but should be prepared for a long ride with their own food, water and repair kit.

Over the past few years the Potato House Society has been the recipient of grants from the BC Museums Association, Northern Development Initiative Trust and the Red Cross.

Forbes said funding is being used to host and market the event and, also, to allow for residents to take wildfire training courses like the S100 Fire Suppression and Safety Course, chainsaw safety and Wilderness and Remote First Aid courses, to name a few, free of charge.

“We want people to know all these opportunities for training are available,” Forbes said. “The purpose is to train everybody. They’re saying it’s going to be another fire season, and we need to be connected.

“It’s all about connecting — a personal connection to our landscape, and First Nations are such a huge part of that — reconnect the Williams Lake community and preparing now for fire season. The past connects the future … and as it happens having a party and being healthy on our bikes is a great way to do that.”

To find out more contact Forbes at 250-855-8443, e-mail grow@potatohouseproject.com or visit the ‘Potato House Project’ Facebook page.

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