WATERVILLE — Head of Falls on Front Street is set to be transformed this weekend into a bike village for 450 cyclists and more than 100 volunteers for the start of the 7th annual BikeMaine event.

Participants and the public are invited to the bike village beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. There will also be lawn games, snacks and a beer and wine garden from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Additionally, riders will be given tours throughout the day of the Waterville Opera House and the Colby Museum of Art. The Crown Vics, a rockabilly dance band, perform a free concert at the RiverWalk amphitheater starting at 7:30 p.m.

The cyclists, 339 of whom come from out of state, will take off on their 324.6 mile ride from the banks of the Kennebec River around the midcoast of Maine at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Along their six-day journey, the riders will roll through 35 towns across the region, and will return to Head of Falls on Saturday, Sept. 14, with a celebratory lunch from noon to 3 p.m.

Each year, the ride’s parent company, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, chooses a new theme to showcase the people, places, food and culture of Maine.

According to a statement released by the coalition, this year’s Midcoast route is among one of the most exciting.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this year’s route,” BikeMaine Director Will Elting said. “It highlights some of Maine’s most iconic landscapes, and is dotted with an array of scenic and cultural landmarks. Our host communities are some of the most historic in the state and will be showcasing some of their hidden gems.”

Waterville was chosen as a key location for this year’s event for a number of reasons, according to Eliza Cress, communications director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

“Each year, we go through a different region of Maine, and we hadn’t been here (Waterville) before,” Cress said. “The city’s proximity to the midcoast and the fact that Colby College is here made it a great choice. The city has the capacity to handle the event.”

The other communities that will host the riders are in Knox, Lincoln and Waldo counties. The route includes landmarks such as the Two Cent Bridge that crosses from Waterville to Winslow, the Matthew Museum of Maine Heritage in Unity and the Rockport Opera House.

The weeklong ride has brought about $3 million to Maine since its inauguration in 2012.

The ride was started to promote Maine as a bicycling destination and to use that as an economic development tool for the state’s communities, according to organizers who work closely with the Maine Farm and Sea Cooperative to showcase local farms and fisheries to participants throughout the trip.

Proceeds from BikeMaine support the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and its continuing advocacy for walkers and bikers in the state. The coalition works to improve bicycling and walking conditions in Maine’s communities and advocates for changes that protect the rights and safety of those who walk and bike.

Cress expressed her gratitude to Waterville for taking on the responsibility of hosting the start and finish of the ride.

“I just want to say a huge thank-you to the city,” Cress said. “We’re so excited to have the opportunity to have the start and finish of BikeMaine in Waterville”

This weekend’s event is also among one of the first to take place at Head of Falls and RiverWalk since its transformation was completed last October.

The $1.5 million revitalization project was designed by Mitchell & Associates and funded by donations, the largest of which came from the Waterville Rotary Club in 2015. The club, which has 17 members volunteering from Saturday to Sunday, led the project by donating $150,000 as a way to celebrate its centennial.

Now that the RiverWalk project is completed, club President Peter Garrett said he and the organization are overjoyed to see it be put to good use.

“We’re very proud of what we do, and Head of Falls is a place to be especially proud of,” Garrett said. “Building up to the 100-year anniversary of the club, we wanted to pick a project to celebrate … we were all able to make the RiverWalk into a nice, safe, comfortable place for families to go.”

The project, which was in the works for several years, included a lighted, 900-foot boardwalk along the river; a gazebo; a large, interactive children’s play area; art installations and landscaping, including trees and flowers; and construction of a 150-seat amphitheater.

Matt Skehan, the director of Waterville’s Parks & Recreation Department, also expressed his excitement for BikeMaine during a phone call Wednesday.

“We’re really excited for all of the riders that are coming from across the country and even the world to see our new RiverWalk at Head of Falls,” Skehan said. “We’re making sure everything is in tip-top shape for their arrival.”

Skehan also explained how the local community has contributed to the event.

“There has been a huge amount of local involvement for BikeMaine,” Skehan said. “Peter Garrett of the Rotary Club has helped so much with organizing, but we also have volunteers from the Lions Club, Thomas College and Central Maine Motors. The volunteers will help with serving food, unloading luggage and coordinating parking.”

Skehan hopes attendees, outside of the riders and volunteers, make an appearance during the weekend’s festivities.

“Our concert and beer garden is open to the public on Saturday,” Skehan said, “so I hope to see people from the community come out and greet the riders and show them our city.”

More information on BikeMaine and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine can be found on the website.


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