GOSHEN — The scattered showers may have discouraged some, but the 14th annual Pumpkinvine Nature Trail Ride still drew close to 1,300 participants overall.
The ride, held Saturday, June 15, started with registration at 7 a.m. at the Abshire Park in Goshen and at the Shipshewana Flea Market. Rides went on throughout the day, some ending at 1:30 p.m. and others at 5 p.m.
The Pumpkinvine Bike Ride, organized by the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year, with proceeds going toward the trail’s maintenance.
Evan Bontrager, bike ride coordinator, said money from last year’s bike ride allowed the organization to add approximately five miles to the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. This year, part of the proceeds will help the organization to purchase another two miles to be added to the trail.
Bontrager said that as of Saturday, an estimated 1,291 riders registered for this year’s bike ride, similar to last year’s numbers. He said it takes a few days to have an estimate of how much money was raised.
By 7:30 a.m. Saturday, a steady stream of cars drove into Abshire Park in Goshen, while other riders who had already arrived walked to the registration booth and checked their gear one last time before heading out on the road.
Melinda Gramm, who was participating in the event with her three daughters and her husband, said this is their first ride of the summer. The family usually goes out on bike rides, and this year was their third time participating in the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride, Gramm said.
“We like going through the Amish country, the scenery is nice, and people here are always friendly,” she said.
The event brings bikers from various regions of the state and country, many of whom say the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride has become a tradition or travel destiny for their vacation.
John Bawcum said he has participated in the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride about seven times. Bawcum drove up to Goshen from Pulaski County, where he is president of the Friends of the Panhandle Pathway, a project he says was started in 2006 with the help of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.
“(The Pumpkinvine Bike Ride) is kind of a ritual to me,” he said. “I bike back and forth to work and I go on a week-long bike ride every year. This is my warm-up ride.”
By 8:30 a.m. at River Bend Park in Middlebury, some bikers were stopping to rest a few minutes and grab a snack or breakfast at a tent that was set up for the event.
Barbara and Jay Campagna had just arrived to the Middlebury station on their tandem bicycle. The couple had come from Davenport, Iowa, to participate in the ride for the third time.
“We were looking for events in the Midwest that weren’t too far and we found the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride,” she said. “We loved it, so we came back again.” Bontrager said the weather this year was not an issue, as it was in 2012. However the organization did add three new water stations as a preventative measure.
Looking ahead to 2014, Bontrager said the organization is planning to make some changes to the route near Middlebury to add more trail miles and avoid car interference.
“So far people have been showing very high appreciation for the event,” he said of the feedback he had been receiving from participants Saturday afternoon. “It’s been excellent.”