GAMBIER, Ohio (August 8, 2012)
The big top rises Thursday on Ransom Lawn as the Kenyon campus gears up for Pelotonia.
The tent and stage going up on South Campus will anchor activities on Saturday, when more than 3,000 bicycle riders, raising money to support cancer research, are expected to arrive in Gambier, starting around 11:00 a.m. and continuing well into the evening.
Pelotonia is the long-distance ride that has raised more than $25 million for cancer research in three years. The Kenyon partnership with Pelotonia this year made Gambier the destination. An all-time high of about 6,100 riders will pedal from downtown Columbus Saturday morning. Riders will cover distances ranging from 25 to 100 miles on Saturday, and about 800, who will spend the night in Knox County, will tackle another 80 miles on Sunday.
"I think it's going to be awesome" at Kenyon, said Kris Anderson, Pelotonia director of event operations and safety. "Obviously, the campus is beautiful, and the athletic center is a gorgeous facility."
Riders will finish at the Kenyon Athletic Center after a closing glide along the Kokosing Gap Trail. Bikes of those riders who will pedal back to Columbus on Sunday will be stored in the KAC. Their overnight luggage will arrive in Gambier by truck. About 550 riders will spend the night in air-conditioned Kenyon residence halls, including the new North Campus townhouses, along with about 120 members of the Pelotonia crew. Other overnight riders have found lodging elsewhere in Knox County.
Emotions run high as the riders roll to the finish "and the people cheer," said Fred Linger, Kenyon manager of business services. "You're seeing signs about people who are survivors. That part of it gives you goosebumps."
Spectators are welcome to help cheer the riders, but the food and entertainment are reserved for registered participants and their guests. AVI Foodsystems is bringing chefs from some of their other venues to help feed the multitude on Saturday, and the Bob Evans restaurant chain is providing Sunday breakfast.
Parking on Saturday may be hard to come by, Linger said. Some parking spaces will also be lost on Thursday and Friday.
"I'm as confident as you can be with a first-time event," he said. "We're going to learn a lot, do a lot of note-taking. Why wouldn't you want to do this? This is something we're going to be very proud of."
Pelotonia is a nonprofit, Columbus-based organization that is fully funded by corporate partners and generates money through donations to riders for cancer research at the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center-the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and the Richard J. Solove Research Institute. All of the money raised through rider sponsors goes to cancer-fighting research.
Pelotonia opens on Friday evening when riders and their families and supporters rally at the downtown Columbus Commons. President S. Georgia Nugent will address the crowd, and a video produced by the Kenyon Office of Public Affairs will be screened.