How To Keep the Vision Alive
Each year in late August, Nelson Fat Tire Festival celebrates biking in a purely Kootenay fashion. This is to say, It’s a festival of the sport first, a competition second. And that’s just what organizers want it to be.
The province has lots of MTB competitions throughout the season, but this one has been less about the competition than about bringing people of all ages and abilities together to share their love of the sport. It’s been that way from the start. And, you could say, this year things have really come full circle to fulfill the dreams of the original Fat Tire Festival organizer, Cam Alexander.
The Fat Tire Festival began with a core group of friends who were determined to see their friend Cam Alexander’s vision of a Nelson mountain bike festival live. Even if their friend had tragically died much too soon, in a mountain biking accident on Father’s Day, in 1995.
That first year, Anne Wishlow from Oso Negro, Ross McNamara from Gerick’s and Mark Holt from Sacred Ride got together to see the festival their friend had envisioned become a reality. Cam had been a local bike mechanic at Gerick’s and someone with a vision for a festival that paid homage to the things he loved: biking, good food, and local art. That he was in the process of making it happen when tragedy struck perhaps spurred his friends on even more to make his dream a reality.
In any case, that July at the ski lodge at Morning Mountain, the first Fat Tire Festival was held. The second year, the Fat Tire Festival was again held at Morning Mountain. And then the lodge burnt down.
Difficult Takes on a Whole New Meaning
If there is a common thread woven in my writings about community volunteers, it might be that the word “difficult” means something different to these folks: They seem to hear words like “difficult” “impossible” “no” or “can’t be done” and translate them to “Why not?” “Yes” “It’ll work” and “Just fine, thank you”. In other words, the fact that the lodge burnt down and they had no venue and the Fat Tire Festival was a young two-years-old didn’t stop them. They just found new venues and kept going.
Until now, 19 years later. The Fat Tire Festival has come back to Morning Mountain, which has just received funding to develop more mountain bike trails. This year, Morning Mountain will have an outhouse, kiosk, and gazebo as well as all the trails. All the original sponsors are still around, too, offering tons of support with staffing, donations and, of course, prizes.
Get Everyone Riding Their Bikes
That seems to be part of what Fat Tire Festival is all about. Get on your bike. Now. Don’t worry about whether you’re good enough, or fast enough, or whether women “don’t race” — just get out there on your bike and ride. The idea behind Fat Tire Festival is hidden in the word “festival” — It’s a party on your bike. Sure, some people are going to take it seriously and compete, and that’s okay. But hopefully, the more relaxed atmosphere and emphasis on fun and festival will get people out on their bikes who normally may have sat on the sidelines.
And That’s Where the Women’s Clinic Comes in:
Kootenay Mountain Bike Coaching is running a women’s clinic which will include a new downhill course at Morning Mountain. The clinics are a great way for women who love to ride gain the confidence they need to really give the sport what it deserves. And, then again, when you attend the clinic, you get $10 off your entry to the Fat Tire Festival downhill…so you’re kind of committed at that point.
There are also going to be kids clinics happening August 22nd on Morning Mountain, for both ages 5 – 7 and 8 – 12. Kootenay Mountain Bike Coaching is offering them at a discounted rate again this year, so it’s a great time to get the kids out on bikes and help them fall in love with the sport at a young age.
Fat Tire Festival — Emphasis on Festival
British Columbia is fast becoming known as a capital of sorts for hard core mountain bike competitions. There are more than enough of these around the province all summer long. What the Fat Tire Festival hopes to provide is a celebration for those who love to ride. All ages, all intensity levels, all abilities. All you need is your love of the sport and a festive heart.
The party, too, is all ages, all abilities, all welcome! Kids and parents alike taking part and joining in in the party together, showing up and contributing their happy energetic vibe for the good of the sport. That’s what it’s all about after all.
Volunteers at the Heart
At the core of the Fat Tire Festival are the volunteers. There are no paid positions to the Fat Tire Festival, so without the volunteers, there would be no festival. There are about 50 volunteer positions to be filled for this year’s event: At the moment, they are actively looking for course marshals for the events on Sunday at Morning Mountain. Anyone who would like to step up and volunteer, you’ll be thanked profusely for your efforts…and, of course, if you volly for more than 4 hours, you get an awesome tee shirt as well!
*Photo credit for featured image, KM Photography http://bb.nsmb.com/showthread.php?t=135724