Rain no rival for outdoor festivities

Residents celebrate beer, bicycles, parades, Earth Day awareness, despite April showers

Outdoor events Saturday were awash with good times and a lot of rain.

“Every time we come to Lawrence it always rains, but it scares no one,” said David Kemp, “tour connoisseur” for New Belgium Brewing Company’s Tour de Fat.

Kyle Batton, Lawrence, tries his best to knock down a tower of beer kegs with a beat-up bicycle. The event was part of the annual Tour De Fat Saturday at Burcham Park.

Kemp expected about 1,000 to pack Burcham Park for the daylong celebration of beer and bicycles, which featured morning bike rides, music, games and classic cruiser bicycles. One of New Belgium’s beers, Fat Tire Amber Ale, has a cruiser bicycle on the label.

“Bicycles are a huge part of our culture,” Kemp said of the brewery staff and its hometown, Fort Collins, Colo. “We try to spread it wherever our beer is sold.”

All proceeds from Tour de Fat went to local organizations such as the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club, Environmental Studies Student Assn. and Trips for Kids, a Kansas City program that takes at-risk and inner-city youth on mountain bike rides.

After its first stop in Lawrence, Tour de Fat will go to 11 more cities this year, Kemp said. Last year, the series raised about $40,000 for nonprofit bicycling organizations.

Ira Frydman, Lawrence, said the combination of beer and bikes was a great way to spend an afternoon.

“If there was sun, then we’d have the perfect day,” he said.

The Kansas’ Greatest Patriot’s Day parade in downtown McLouth ended just as rain started sprinkling, said Gay Rofkahr, McLouth. The fourth annual event commemorated the beginning of the Revolutionary War and had a petting zoo, a community meal at McLouth High School and a quilt show.

Rofkahr, a member of The Kansas Prairie Quilters, helped organize the show of about 80 quilts.

“We had a good turnout,” she said, “and we had some beautiful quilts.”

In Lawrence, the Earth Day parade avoided the rain, but a downpour at 2:30 p.m. put an early end to the Earth Day fair in Buford M. Watson Jr. Park.

A crowd of a couple hundred people watched the parade on Massachusetts Street, which featured environmental groups, scout troops, hybrid cars from local dealers, belly dancers and a bus from The T.

There was a simple reason why Quenton Todd, 8, marched in the parade.

“To keep the earth clean,” said the Woodlawn School third-grader.

Todd joined a group of students from the Woodlawn After-School Program that walked in the parade, many of them wearing paper-flower masks and signs advocating recycling.

The parade ended at Watson Park for a festival organized by Kansas University Environs. Local organizations and business had information tables, bands played and a bubble machine drew the attention of many children.

Donald Worster, a professor of environmental history at KU, gave a short speech and said the purpose of the first Earth Day was not to create a utopia, but to mobilize concern among government leaders, university professors, media and the public.

It started a movement whose struggle continues today, he said.

“The politicians must be reminded that the health of the people and the land are one and the same,” he said.