Mountain bike festival raises money for Little Red River Park

Matt Gardner
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Since its inception, the annual Pine Needle Mountain Bike Festival has helped raise money each year for a local charitable cause.

Previous beneficiaries of the festival -- which is organized by Fresh Air Experience -- have included KidSport, the Rotary Trail and public buildings in the Prince Albert area that received automated defibrillators.

For the fourth festival, which took place on Sunday at Little Red River Park, the lucky recipient was the park itself.

“After last year, with the flooding that went on out here and the city deciding to close the park for eventually three months, I think it really hit home that this park needs some love and attention,” Fresh Air Experience co-owner Ron Horn said. “So what we’ve done this year is we’ve targeted an area where we want to re-build the river trail.

“It’s the cross-country ski trail, as well,” he added. “The trail is slumping into a drop. There needs to be a retaining wall re-built, guard rail re-built, and so that’s the project that we’re focusing on raising money for today.”

In order to raise money for a charitable cause each year while covering the costs of hosting the event, organizers rely on two primary sources of revenue, each of which is used for a different purpose.

Donations from sponsors help cover the costs of hosting the event, while entry fees paid by teams or individual riders generate cash for the charitable cause.

“We like the idea that … people know that the money that they’re raising goes to the cause that they’re riding for,” Horn noted.

Turnout at this year’s mountain bike festival saw an increase over previous years, with 65 riders out traversing the six-kilometre course.

While some chose to rode individually, others travelled in teams of two or four. Many teams specifically represented local businesses or community organizations.

Any competitive element of the festival is largely left to the riders themselves.

“There are certainly people who have got their challenges out there and we have some very serious riders here,” Horn said. “These are people that would ride competitively throughout the process and they have set personal goals of riding so many laps within the six hours.

“So they are riding hard, they’re riding continuously, they’re tagging off at the exchange zone and they’re going for it, and it’s kind of more for bragging rights. But there’s really no prize for the people who ride the fastest.”

One difference of this year’s festival was a modification of the prize system. Previously, organizers gave away mountain bikes to the team that raised the most money.

By contrast, this year they offered prizes through a draw system.

“We have over $4,000 in prizes for the participants, so you don’t need to ride for six hours,” Horn said. “You can ride a couple of laps with your team, put your name in the draw bin and win a prize.”

A cash prize was also offered for the rider who was able to achieve the most laps.

Though the mountain bike course was naturally the focal point of the event, it was by no means the only attraction available for those in attendance.

The festival also included a bouncy castle and “bike rodeo” obstacle course for young children to enjoy, food booths featuring the cuisine of local vendors and spectacles such as a donut eating contest.

Meanwhile, area musicians such as the groups SheBam, Cheap Luxury and All Mighty Voice provided live entertainment throughout the day.

“We’ve got lots of things for people to do (and) see,” Horn said.

“Whether you ride a bike or not, whether you just appreciate the park, come out and use the park … That’s a big theme of what we’re doing.”

Geographic location: Little Red River Park, Prince Albert

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