Tour de Fat – More Than a Beer Fest

Tour de Fat parade.

One of my favorite community events was held this past Saturday in downtown Fort Collins, the Thirteenth Annual Tour de Fat (TDF)sponsored by New Belgium Brewery. Bikes and beer go together in interesting ways with the New Belgium beer and bike culture.

We have always gone downtown to simply watch the bike parade – an estimated 20,000 people rode in it this year, most in unusual homemade costumes. This year, I drove to the Oak Street Farmer’s Market early to buy some I d’éclair  coffee caramel eclairs (wonderful treats, Elizabeth – thanks). I was amused that two hours before the bike parade, people on Mountain Ave. were setting couches in the grass boulevard with coffee tables to watch the event. This parade is a little different because local folks have to decide, “Am I in

Some ride the parade and spend the day as thematic teams – gnomes maybe.

the parade this year or watching it and what exotic costume will I wear either way?” Both activities seem equally fun. I’ve never ridden in it, but it is hilarious to watch. Just driving toward Old Town we saw people on bikes dressed like Fred Flintstone, elves, and varied other characters from movies or their own wild imaginations. I especially enjoyed the group wearing white pants, white shirts, red sashes and red neckerchiefs. This is the traditional garb of the “incierro” in Pamplona (running of the bulls). Each of their bikes had an inflatable bull’s head on it – cute.

This year, we looked in on the part of the event we have missed in other years. As the day goes on, the event moves from the parade to an area of several blocks that encompass city parks and parking lots. A variety of stages and beer garden areas offer places where thousands of local people and out of towners gather to enjoy music and, of course, New Belgium beer.

Even Harry showed up, hmmmm.

One of the main activities at each of the fifteen Tour de Fat events around the nation is the “trade my car for a bike.” Individuals go onstage and give up a car in trade for a bike, while pledging to stay car-free for a year.  The car is auctioned with funds benefitting local bike clubs. All of the TDF concessions last year in Fort Collins alone yielded $87,000 for local charities. Nationwide, the events generated $401,563 in 2011 for charity.

New Belgium Brewery, located near Old Town Fort Collins, has a great tasting room in the brewery and a wonderful interpretive tour. They measure success by the triple bottom line – economy, equity, ecology. They power the brewery with wind power and serve as advocates for keeping the Cache la Poudre River undammed. And they take their amazing spirit of community on the road via the Tour de Fat in fifteen cities. Catch one in a community near you.

– Tim Merriman

P.S. Visit our Communities with Heart page for more photos.

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