The fifth annual Historic Marietta Bike Race will be held on Saturday, July 7, in downtown Marietta. All proceeds from the event will go toward the town’s parks and recreation departments.
Rich Kushner, owner of Swedish Motors and the race’s director, cited the election of former mayor Raymond Vegso, who took over from 32-year incumbent Oliver Overlander in 2013, as the reason for the race’s inception. A similar bike race was held at one point during Overlander’s term but was eventually shut down due to concerns about traffic inconvenience. When Vegso took office, he expressed a desire to Kushner about bringing the event back to town, and the plan is to continue the race under newly elected mayor Harold Kulman.
“I contacted some friends at Era Ski and Bike, and they hooked me up with some people who were organizing the Turkey Hill Classic over in Washington Boro,” Kushner said. “We all got together and made it happen.”
In the ensuing years, the race has steadily grown thanks to participation from the citizens of Marietta, as well as local businesses. Kushner compared the potential for the event’s impact on the town’s growth to the Susquehanna Waldorf School when it first opened in 1987.
“The purpose of the race is to bring more people into town,” Kushner said. “We’d like to create an environment where more shops like Lancaster Recumbent want to move in downtown. The Northwest River Trail has done that on its own. It’s just been incredible to see the amount strangers coming into town. They then either shop or dine here, and come back, because everyone who comes to Marietta loves our town. Community development is what it’s all about for us.”
This year’s race will be the first sponsored by Lancaster Recumbent. To reflect the change, the start-finish line will be located in front of the recently opened shop on West Market Street in Marietta. There will be a dedication ceremony held before the race at the same location. Scott Barrows and his family, who own the shop, had previously donated a $2,700 bicycle to the event in 2017 that was auctioned off online.
The addition of Lancaster Recumbent will also see a new competition added to the event as well: a recumbent bike race. Barrows had a group of recumbent racers give an exhibition of sorts in 2017 and suggested that Kushner add a full race for recumbent bicyclists for this year’s event. Some other new additions to the race include a bike rodeo for children and more participation from local businesses.
“It’s always nice to see people come out on their front porches just to cheer or clap,” Kushner said. “The reason we moved it up to Market Street is because everyone congregated down along Front Street, and we were interested in exposing that street to families and spectators who would enjoy what we have in town.”
Kushner and the rest of the race committee have tossed around ideas to further expand the race, including incorporating the town’s fireworks event and adding a beer garden, though they haven’t gotten beyond the planning stages. A sports car racer in his spare time, Kushner has also thought about developing a soapbox derby race for the future. For now, however, he wants the bike race to continue to grow each year and hopes the excitement of the competition will play a factor in bringing racers and spectators back.
“Forty mile per hour bike races,” Kushner said. “Can’t get much better than that.”