Three valuable reminders and bikes

Every year for several years now, my mom and I have volunteered at a bicycle event hosted by the League of Michigan Bicyclists. About 120 bicyclists arrive in Alpena on the Thursday before Father’s Day and stay to Sunday. They have three ride choices Friday and Saturday and two on Sunday, with route variations of a shorter route, a medium route, or a longer route. One day, they headed to Hubbard lake on their rides. Another day, they headed toward Presque Isle. And, on Sunday, they were in the Bolton/Maple Ridge area.

As volunteers, we work at what is called a SAG stop. We set up at a location along the route where the bicyclists can stop for water, to use a restroom, and have a snack. Our day of volunteering for the last several years has been on Sunday, their final day. The first year, we didn’t know what to expect, so we showed up to volunteer using only what the League gave us. After that initial year, we decided that, if we were going to continue to host a SAG Stop, we would make it an even more positive experience for the participants. Our SAG Stop now includes fresh fruit cups, five or six baked goods, including a gluten-free option, and motivational sayings displayed around the tables and even in the restrooms.

We enjoy the event for several reasons. We enjoy putting our love of baking to good use. We enjoy helping to make their experience a positive one. We like chatting with them about their overall experience, where they are from, and what they do back home. We like spending time together doing good things for the community.

The participants for the event come from all over Michigan, and some even come from surrounding states. When we chat with them, they are so incredibly positive about the community. It is refreshing. This year, they had several days of rain, yet their attitudes were still so upbeat.

One couple from across the state told us they love coming here because it’s beautiful and they like our restaurants. Another group told us they love the bike routes selected for the tour because they are safe and so picturesque. Another couple, who has been back for this event year after year, told us it is their favorite bicycle event of the year.

Several people who had never been to Alpena, or hadn’t been here in a long time, told us they were surprised by how much Alpena has to offer. Another couple said they didn’t want to ride in the rain on Saturday, so they went exploring instead, and loved it. Another man and his sons said they spent a little too much time at the bars the night before, but that they had so much fun interacting with the friendly people they met. They especially enjoyed the atmosphere of the brewery. The positive comments on our community just kept coming from the bicyclists.

The event is valuable to the community. Hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and many other businesses receive an inflow of customers and dollars from the visitors.

The event is also a good reminder to me of three different thoughts of value.

First is the importance of making experiences unique, which is something we can all play a part in. My mom and I could easily volunteer using the supplies given to us by the League. But, to take extra energy to bake, cut up fruit, put out fun motivational sayings, and interact with the visitors adds value to their visit. We know they appreciate it, because they tell us. You have the power to add value to things you are involved in, as well.

Second, the event always reminds me of the value in volunteering. That day is always a day we look forward to. It is fun. It builds our relationship. It creates opportunities for us to communicate with one another. To me, volunteering is as much for the organization I am helping as it is for me.

And, lastly, this event is always a positive reminder of how much people love this town, and how fortunate we are to live here.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.