EAST PRAIRIE - Mark your calendars and oil your bike chains: the Second Annual Tour de Corn cycling event is set for June 28.
"It's not a race, it's just a ride, and people are encouraged to ride at the speed at which they are physically able to ride," said Silvey Barker, East Prairie's director of tourism. "Some of the more professional cyclists may compete against their own time, but that's a personal choice - not a part of the event."
Held in conjunction with East Prairie's 29th Annual Sweetcorn Festival, the East Prairie Tourism Council and Tour de Corn Committee conceived the event as a "ride" instead of a race "to encourage more local entries," Barker said. "It's more for pleasure."
Last year's event attracted riders of nearly all ages, according to Barker. "Our youngest rider was 10 years old and she rode 15 miles, and our oldest was 76, and he rode 60 - and he's already registered for this year."
Monty Boston of East Prairie participated last year and plans to ride again this year. "I rode the 15 mile one - that's the shortest," she recalled. "It was great - they had a lot more participants than anticipated and I think this year is going to be even better than last year."
Last year, 176 riders from seven states participated in the event. "We have 100 preregistered as of today," said Barker. "At this point we have nine states and the District of Columbia represented."
Tour de Corn will begin and end on the Church of God's Family Life Center's parking lot in downtown East Prairie. Registration tables will be set up and ready there at 6 a.m. "They can register on up to the time of the ride," said Barker.
Following the mass start at 7:30 a.m., participants will travel east on Washington Street through East Prairie before splitting off into three different routes.
This year's event features courses with routes 15, 30 and 60 miles long. "They're three different routes," said Barker. "All three of them do use portions of the Mississippi River Cycling Trail - it's a national trail; it extends from St. Paul, Minnesota, to New Orleans."
Routes are well-marked rural roads, Barker said, passing several scenic areas around the county.
"They're all in rural areas, surrounded by agriculture," Barker said. "The routes that we use will be entering Big Oak Tree State Park, Ten-mile Pond conservation area, and will go past miles and miles of crop land."
A member of the Cape Bicycle Club for about four years before moving to East Prairie, Boston said the flat terrain makes the Tour de Corn a very easy and pleasant ride. "You don't have to be a regular bicycle rider to sign up for it," she said. "It's nice and quiet and not a whole lot of traffic - it's just really a good course."
Boston said there will be "SAG wagons" to help people with flats and other mechanical problems, "or if they are just tired and need a ride back." A total of five rest and snack spots will also be placed along the routes.
"Helmets are required and cyclists must obey all traffic rules," Barker said. Riders will also be required to submit a signed release form.
Registration is $15, with some of the proceeds going toward a charitable donation to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Barker said T-shirts are not included in the registration fee but are available for $10 for sizes up through extra large; $12 for extra-extra large; and $13 for extra-extra-extra large.
Those wishing to volunteer their help for the event are encouraged to call City Hall at 649-3057.
Registration and release forms and additional information for the Second Annual Tour de Corn are available online at www.tourdecorn.com or at City Hall.