Second Annual Gran Fondo

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Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

Enjoy a day of sun, fun and the beautiful country scenery of Chautauqua County for the second annual cycling tour of Chautauqua Lake, the Chautauqua Gran Fondo. Last year’s event rolled up a spectacular success with 300 riders and $12,000 donated to local charities. Registration for this year’s event has already topped last year’s and promises to be one of the region’s most popular cycling events of 2016.

The 2016 Gran Fondo is slated to begin with an important keynote speaker at Mayville’s Lakeside Park, home of the historic Chautauqua Belle, at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday morning, August 27, 2016 with riders heading out at 9:00 a.m. sharp. There is something for everyone along the way.

Mary Rappaport, owner and operator of 59 Lucy Lane, Lucille Ball’s childhood home in Celeron, New York, was the original title sponsor of the event and is continuing her commitment to the ride this year. She also plans to keep promoting the public’s appreciation for Lucy’s heritage, to stimulate health and well-being for recreational and sport cyclists, and to raise funds for select, local charities.

59 Lucy Lane is one of the special stops along the Jamestown loop of the Gran Fondo route. Riders can stop there, enjoy a rest and refreshments and browse through the childhood home of Lucille Ball.

“We want to bring more people to Chautauqua County to enjoy our beautiful scenery, historic locations and friendly communities,” said Michelle Turner, VP of Marketing at the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency (CCIDA) and the original event founder and organizer.

Unique Event
“This is the only Gran Fondo we know of that ends with a family picnic open to the public, whether they are riders or not,” Turner said. In addition to providing lunch, refreshments and beverages at the end of the race – slated for noon until 4:00 p.m. at Webb’s – the family-friendly picnic will feature live entertainment by country recording artists, The Stickers, and a funky and fun rock n’ blues band, Deb & the Dynamics. For the kids, a free-of-charge Make-Your-Own Ice Cream Sundae Station courtesy of Tastee Corners & Cafe of Jamestown will add a creative treat to the family-friendly picnic following the ride.

“Whimsical dress has become a part of this event,” Turner said, describing some of last year’s riders who sported special headgear, hairdos and full-body costumes. “Last year a couple of riders actually dressed like muskies! Chautauqua Lake, after all, has been called the Musky Capital of the World, so why not let musky madness make the point?”

This year, the Muskie Madness costume competition will earn prizes for the most creative costumes, unique uniforms, or the most entertaining bike style. Last year’s Gran Fondo attracted riders from across the region and from neighboring states, “Some local riders decided to promote Chautauqua County in their own special way.”

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Take the Challenge
“The Gran Fondo is open to riders of every age and skill level, from casual, recreational riders to top competitors,” Turner said. The Chautauqua Gran Fondo is meant to be a fun family outing, not a race.

Corporate Challenge riding teams, however, compete for the highest total pledges for the charities they support. The winning team will receive recognition on stage at the after party at Webb’s Captain’s Table, a photo opportunity with one of the bands and will earn the right to select one of the charities that next year’s Gran Fondo will support. All of this year’s Corporate Challenge riders will also receive a 50 percent discount off the 2017 Chautauqua Gran Fondo registration fee.

“Area businesses are encouraged to form a team to promote employee wellness, team spirit and community pride,” according to the Chautauqua Gran Fondo website. This year’s corporate challenge teams include Team Turner from Century 21, the All for the Love of Kids Team from Royal Family Kids Camp and the State of New York Team led by Lori Cornell, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s representative for Western New York’s South Region.

Life Changing Event
The 8:45 a.m. Gran Fondo kickoff at Lakeside Park will include remarks by County Executive, Vince Horrigan, and a very special guest speaker with an inspirational story to tell Southwestern High School alumnus and recent RIT Biotechnology graduate, Rob Newell, will be riding in the Chautauqua Gran Fondo. This year he celebrated completing his degree work at RIT by cycling across the country in a 9-week, 4,345 mile “Journey of Hope”, organized by his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, to raise money for persons with disabilities. The fraternity is the only one in the nation to operate its own philanthropy, “The Ability Experience”, Rob Newell arrived in Washington D.C. at the end of his ride in August a very different person than the one who started out in Seattle in June.

“At first, I wasn’t sure I should [take the ride],” Newell explained to the Jamestown Gazette. “But, although I did not even own a road bike, I realized if you really want to do it, you can do anything. Later, when the riding got tough, I told myself the people with disabilities I was riding for couldn’t ‘just get off it and quit’, so I didn’t either. They inspired me to go on.” Rob has an amazing story to tell. Be sure to hear it.

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New Routes
“We reversed the routes this year,” Turner said, “to give riders a varied perspective on sights they might have seen last year.” This year’s ride begins by heading north from Mayville, rather than South.

Venn Blakely, who served as the Recreation Director for the Village of Westfield for 27 years, was invited by the CCIDA, along with his wife, Mary, to serve as this year’s logistics coordinator for the Gran Fondo.
“Safety and fun are both important,” Blakely said. “We’ve got water stops, rest stops, stops to tour interesting sites along the route and a SAG Wagon for folks with injuries or other medical needs along the way.”

This year the event offers four different routes around the lake, one of which extends into Chautauqua County’s scenic and historic wine country all the way to the shores of Lake Erie.

Registration for riders who are not already registered begins at 7:30 on Saturday morning followed by opening remarks at Lakeside Park in Mayville at 8:45. The first pedal turns at 9 a.m. sharp. Riders can select four different routes of four different lengths. (See sidebar below.)

Riders can register as individuals, families, teams and groups online at ChautauquaGranFondo.com. Online registration closes on August 24, but riders can register in person on the day of the event.

Riders of every skill level can enjoy any of the four tour routes. All will offer refreshment and rest stops and safety services along every route, picnic entertainment at Webb’s Captain’s Table Restaurant after the tour and an after party open to everyone, riders or not, with live music, cold punch, beer garden and refreshments.

Helping the Deserving
Proceeds from the 2016 Chautauqua Gran Fondo will benefit three local organizations.

The Southwestern Schools Education Foundation (SSEF) enhances educational programs, initiatives and capital projects which the annual school budget cannot initiate or maintain without private sector funding and charitable giving. The SSEF is independent of the Southwestern Central School District Board of Education.

The Mental Health Association (MHA) provides comprehensive and holistic support for participants in existing local treatment programs to discover who they truly are and access their natural gifts. MHA provides a Peer Recovery Support Center to help men, women and families overcome the effects of mental illness and drug addiction.

Chautauqua County Veteran’s Endowment Fund (CCVEF) helps local Veterans with a no interest, no repayment deadline loan of up to $500 to pay for medications, rent, travel to out of state medical appointments, repair vehicles and more.

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Come for One – Enjoy Both
“We’re enthusiastic about some joint plans for next year,” Turner said, commenting on the happy coincidence that the Gran Fondo and the Celtic Festival are able to share Lakeside Park as the kickoff place for both events at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. It is a great day for a double header. “Come for one and enjoy both” could well be a motto for both events in 2016 and in years to come.

See More
The second annual Chautauqua Gran Fondo is truly a community event. To learn more, see the routes and local attractions, visit www.chautauquagranfondo.com and Chautauqua Gran Fondo on Facebook.

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.