By James Bell
It has been 17 years since riders from the annual Biking Across Kansas tour stopped in Hays, taking in the sights and sounds of the city.
Even then it was only a portion of the amount of riders.
This time, the full group of over 800 biking enthusiasts will take up residence for a night in the city as the tour rolls into the area Monday.
“Hays is welcoming Biking Across Kansas with the red carpet,” said Stefanie Weaver, BAK executive director.
“We will just feel like we are being treated like kings and queens when we come to Hays,” she said.
This year’s ride marks the 45th tour. A different route is selected each year.
“One of our goals each year is to take people through the beautiful areas of Kansas, which have hidden gems at every turn,” Weaver said.
“One of the things we try to do is look for overnight stops where we can really look at the comfort and convenience for our riders and stay in a cohesive unit.”
While in Hays a variety of options for meals and other services will be available for riders with shuttles providing transportation.
“Melissa (Dixon) and her team and others in the community have worked really, really hard to make sure we have access to shuttles that will be taking our riders to really strategic points around the community,” Weaver said.
The shuttles are a partnership with USD 489 in conjunction with their use of the Hays High gymnasium as sleeping quarters.
“Shuttle stops will include the Historic Fort Hays, Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Ellis County Historical Society Museum, and Hays Aquatic Park, as well as specific requests from BAK, such as Precision Valley Golf and Bike Center, and the 27th and Hall Laundromat,” according to a press release from the Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Facilities offering special rates for BAK participants include Sternberg Museum and Hays Aquatic Park. In addition, Downtown Hays Development Corporation will sponsor live music and refreshments in the Downtown Hays Pavilion from 3 to 6 p.m.”
“We really appreciate that some of our attractions are stepping up and opening their facilities on days they would normally be closed, such as the Historic Fort Hays Site and the Ellis County Historical Society Museum,” said Hays CVB Executive Director Melissa Dixon.
Another event is also scheduled the morning of their departure.
“St. Fidelis Basilica of Victoria will provide a fundraiser breakfast of cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos at 5:30 a.m. at Hays High before the riders depart for Wilson on Tuesday, June 11,” the release said.
Along with enjoying Hays, riders will give a little back with a presentation scheduled at Via Christy Village, 2225 Canterbury Drive.
“They will be sharing information with the residents about Biking Across Kansas and biking in general, which may look a little bit different than when the residents rode their bike last,” Weaver said.
A barbershop chorus from the group will also perform for the residents at 2 p.m.
Riders of all ages — from 7 years old to 86 — will be a part of the group.
“We have one gentleman who was on the very first Biking Across Kansas,” Weaver said.
“He was a teenager at the time in 1975. He left and was not in the area for a number of years. Now his schedule allows him to come back to Kansas and ride BAK.”
Thirty-one states are also represented by the riders.
“It’s quite the spectrum,” Weaver said.
Riders will arrive between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but noon to 2 p.m. is likely to be the peak time of arrivals, depending on weather conditions.
“Every town really shows its own personality and its points of interest and amenities to highlight and show off, and we are definitely looking forward to all of the above in Hays,” Weaver said.