At first, May 4 sounded like a day to stay away from Belmont.
Too much going on that day: a high-speed professional bicycle race drawing 5,000 spectators; several more thousands at a spring fest; and another 3,000 to 5,000 for an evening concert by the band Rough Draft.
All of it crammed into downtown.
I figured it best to steer clear.
But Assistant City Manager Adrian Miller made me reconsider.
No reason to avoid the city that day, he said. In fact, there’s every reason to be there.
Don’t worry about the crowds or the traffic. Miller assured me city police will be out in force, and shuttle bus service will make it easy getting to and from the events.
Things will get started at 11 a.m. with the 28th annual GaribaldiFest, which runs until 5 p.m. in Stowe Park.
The criterium races begin at 4 p.m. on streets north of the railroad tracks.
Last fall, it was announced that Belmont had landed a USA CRITS Speed Week race. The tour, with professional cyclists, starts with a race in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Plains, Ga., and moves on to other host cities, including Athens, Ga., and Spartanburg and Beaufort, S.C.
Belmont is the only city in North Carolina that will host a race.
A criterium is a short course typically in an urban setting with lots of tight turns. Cyclists hit speeds of 35 to 50 miles per hour.
According to the city of Belmont’s website, the start/finish line will be directly in front of City Hall. The course will begin north on Main Street and then turn right on Woodrow Avenue. Racers then take a quick right on Davis and a left on Kenwood to Glenway. The course will follow Glenway back to Main Street with an uphill finish at City Hall.
The women’s professional race starts at 4 p.m.; the men’s race is at 5 p.m.
The race is a partnership between South Main Cycles, the city of Belmont and the Belmont Merchants Association. Carolina HeathCare System is the primary sponsor.
Folks who know Belmont probably have in mind the best places to park. Miller said a free shuttle bus will run from 2 until 10:30 p.m. from the Park Street United Methodist Church parking lot to downtown.
Restaurants and shops will be open. There will be food vendors, crafts, acoustic music and inflatable games for kids. A special hospitality tent, catered by Belmont’s String Bean Market & Deli, will have food and N.C. craft beer.
The kickoff for the Million Mile Challenge, a year-long east-Gaston community health initiative co-sponsored by the city of Belmont and Carolinas HealthCare, will be at 3 p.m. in front of City Hall.
By logging into m2challenge.org, you can enter the distances you walk, jog or cycle – and watch them add up over a year’s time. The goal is collectively to hit the 1-million-mile mark and change the perception created by recent ratings that listed Gaston 81st healthiest out of 100 counties.
The day’s festivities end with a 7:30 p.m. show by Rough Draft on South Main Street. This is the kickoff for the city’s 2013 Friday Night Live concert series – a special Saturday night edition.
Belmont City Council member Bill Toole thinks first-time visitors will be favorably impressed with the vibrant and caring community.
As they look around, taking into account the city’s close proximity to the Catawba River, Interstate 85 and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, they may say: “Wow, this place is the ideal situation.”
Toole hopes some will want to live and work here. To him, the criterium will be an economic development tool in coming years.
A cyclist himself, Toole helped Belmont get the criterium. It’s a spectacular sport, right up there with NASCAR, minus the noise, he said.
Instead of a roar, riders will stir up a breeze as they zip by.
On May 4, Belmont will be astir with all sorts of sights and sounds, as anyone who has been to GaribaldiFest and the concert series already knows. The professional bicycle race will add a new dimension and help put Belmont and east Gaston even more firmly on the map.
Joe DePriest: 704-868-7745; firstname.lastname@example.org
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