Our Place in the Community
Last year turned out to be a great Summit, largely because we tried something different.
In early 2017 many riders who were planning to participate were very apprehensive about holding the summit in West Virginia. We were too. We heard it on some of the exploration trips. It was clear, but with the routes, the absence of traffic, and the reception we were getting from the park, we kept going. We listened, we talked to community church pastors and had significant discussions in our weekly club coordination sessions. The big concern was the prevalence of the Confederate Flags flying in the area. Truthfully, we were a bit on edge.
Then during the multiple scouting trips to the area, Russ and I noticed the strong sense of community that existed in the rural community. An example is a story about the small library at the store in Cox’s Mill. In the overhang of the store, we saw a little library consisting of books, DVDs, and other materials. Based on the honor system the local folks borrowed, added and replaced items. It showed us a spirit of empathy and consideration not ordinarily seen where we live.
Another was the fact no matter to whom you spoke, they knew everyone else you had been talking with. Kathy knew Steve, Steve knew the Doc, the Doc knew them both as well as the editor of the Gazette. The guy up Pullman Road who I helped get his lawn tractor out of the mud knew everyone. It’s cool to see.
So the “Community Outreach” program was developed not only from the very essence of being a Major Taylor but also the need to complement that spirit. We felt that if we’re bringing 100+ cyclists to take over their roads that we should give something back to the community. The development of the outreach program was made easy with the help of pastor Bill Dawson of St Lukes United Methodist church in Harrisville. We were told that the children in the area might never own a bike during their childhood. Sad. The Columbus Majors collected twenty gently used bikes with helmets which were donated to the Harrisville Baptist Church. The response was overwhelming.
What happened next surprised us all. A few days after the event, we received a package from Christy at NorthBend. She mailed multiple copies of the Ritchie Gazette, the local newspaper. We saw quickly not only did the event receive front page coverage but a local man, a Mr. Rowland Hill, wrote a letter to the editor about his experience with the riders. We have attached copies to this page, and I encourage everyone to read them.
Mr. Hill did his research. His letter provides in-depth detail on who Major Taylor was and his place in history. He then raises the issue of the Confederate Flag. He questions the flag’s existence in the area as a question of heritage, not racism.
His letter touches a nerve – in a good sense. He describes all the interaction he had with us last year. He saw groups on the roads and marveled at the color of the kits, bikes, and helmets; he talked with a few of us and through it all, he was glad to see us. He also appreciates the spirit of the Major, which he saw in all of us.
For one, I’m proud of the way the event came off last year. I think many were surprised at how well it did, and I guess we’ll see based on the number of folks that show up in 2018.
But in any regard, I’m particularly proud of the impression we left on the community as evidenced in Mr. Hills letter. I have to thank everyone who attended in 2017 for making a beautiful impact.
Sadly I won’t be to able to roll this year. An accident last fall is keeping me off the bike until the end of the month. I’d like to wish all of you a great Summit and continue in the same energy as last year. As we say, Represent! Believe me, I’ll be with you in spirit.
Attached are pdf of the letter to the editor and news coverage from last year. Please take a look.
VP, Major Taylor Cycling Club of Columbus Ohio
Time to roll.