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Ride to the music
Midnight Garden Ride features streamlined route, Telfair Square concert

Regular readers of Connect are no doubt familiar with our biweekly cycling advocacy column, “The News Cycle,” written by Savannah Bicycle Campaign Vice–Chairman John Bennett.

The nonprofit Bicycle Campaign’s biggest fundraiser — and one of Savannah’s favorite late summer events — happens this Saturday night.

“It’s the fourth annual Midnight Garden Ride. We’re finally learning how to do it,” laughs Drew Wade, Bicycle Campaign chairman.

“It’s our major fundraiser for the year. If folks are interested in having a good time while giving some love to people who want to make the city more livable, this is a good way to do it,” he says.

“The actual performance of the ride is pretty straightforward at this point. Probably the main issues in terms of time we spend are nailing down all the things related to venue, then going out and marketing it to sponsors,” says Wade.

For those unfamiliar with the Midnight Garden Ride, it goes like this: You meet up with a bunch of other riders — ranging from casual families to hardcore cyclists in full gear — and then the 9–mile trek begins around Savannah’s downtown squares, through midtown and around Daffin Park and back, all with police escort and full traffic control.

While last year the riders ended up, tired but happy, in Forsyth Park to enjoy a Savannah Stopover–sponsored concert by Ben Sollee, this year things are a wee bit different.

“There were some issues with Forsyth Park this year so we couldn’t use it,” says Wade. “The next five places we looked at all had weddings booked! So Savannah has apparently become a major wedding destination. especially on a holiday weekend. We landed in Telfair Square, which will be a more intimate setting this year for some good fun and great music.”

This year Savannah Stopover booked Atlanta buzz band Ponderosa for the Telfair Square post-ride gig (see Bill DeYoung’s story this issue).

Wade explains the ride’s burgeoning, mutually beneficial relationship with Savannah Stopover:

“We’re both kind of still-emerging groups. I think the partnership with Stopover helps us because it explains our mission to a different audience that might not otherwise know enough about local advocacy for bikes,” Wade says.

“That’s part of the reason we wanted to make this a fun, festival atmosphere, not just really hardcore people who come to our board meetings and public meetings.”

As for the ride itself, Wade says experience has taught the Bicycle Campaign the best way to run things.

“We now know what’s held us up in the past in terms of stops. We have a great relationship with the police and with the City’s traffic department. Now we can keep things flowing pretty easily by controlling the route a little better.”

Wade says a key difference this year is simplifying the logistics of the route. Last year, for example, riders had a choice to break off early.

“Last year we gave folks the option to turn off at the end of the park, but most people weren’t ready to stop. I think only about ten people ended up doing it. But if we offer that option we still have to break off 20–30 volunteers because at that point you’re managing two rides,” he says.

“This year we’re just going to have a support vehicle, so if anybody does fall behind they can get in there and go back to the start. That’s how we’re going to manage it for folks who can’t make it the whole way for whatever reason.”

As always, Midnight Garden riders all need helmets — even adults not required by state law to do so — and all riders must have a white lights in front and a red rear light (state law only requires red reflectors).

In an interesting synchronicity, the Midnight Garden Ride’s presenting sponsor this year is New Belgium Beers, who will already be in town for the Savannah Craft Brew Festival.

“We’ve always had an affinity for them,” jokes Wade of the company that features a big old–school bicycle as their symbol. “Their logo fits in with what we do.” 

Midnight Garden Ride + Concert

When: Sat. Sept. 1, 8 p.m.

Where: Start and end at Telfair Square Cost: $35 pre-reg, $40 day of; for concert only $10 at