Two of Perry’s greatest quality-of-life assets joined hands Saturday morning when bicycling enthusiasts and art enthusiasts formed a crowd of about 120 at the Raccoon River Valley Trailhead in Perry.
The 18th annual Hiawatha Classic bike ride started at 10 a.m., and so did the Steamroll Print event. Riders in the Perry Parks and Recreation Department-sponsored ride gathered at the Caboose Park trailhead, where they had a chance to observe the doings of Iowa State University Art Professor Jennifer Drinkwater and half-a-dozen members of the ISU Print Club. The ISU group was joined by several Perry High School students and numerous other Perry residents with a taste for printmaking and a passion for public art.
Perry booster Mary Laborde of Farm Credit Services of America coordinated the 2015 Hiawatha Classic. Laborde’s diligent organizing brought a raft of raffle prizes to this year’s ride, including a Hotel Pattee Getaway package, an LG 42-inch LED HDTV, a six-month membership to the McCreary Community Building and many others. Raffle winners were announced after the ride.
Proceeds from the Hiawatha Classic support the development of the proposed Perry-Bouton-Woodward trail connection as well as the bike trails in and through Perry.
Dallas County Conservation Director Mike Wallace was on hand at registration time before the ride, handing out fresh cinnamon rolls and explaining to riders the progress of the connector-trail project and the county’s interest in trail development overall.
Laborde said the link trail “is going to mean so much for the communities they pass through, not only from an economic standpoint but just think how much this will improve the health of the communities the trails pass through. This is huge for our community now and in the future.”
“The more riders we get, the faster we can get connected,” said Perry Assistant City Administrator Sven Peterson. He said in some years the Hiawatha Classic has drawn as few as 30 or 40 riders, but this year interest in connecting central Iowa’s two premier tourist attractions brought out about 75 riders.
Dr. Richard Deming of Above + Beyond Cancer gave an inspiring speech at the start of the ride. Deming is medical director of the Mercy Cancer Center and founder of the charity group leading cancer survivors on travel adventures. Above + Beyond Cancer’s mission is “to elevate the lives of those touched by cancer, to create a healthier world,” Deming said.
“How do you take a bump and use it as a springboard as opposed to a stopping point?” Deming asked the assembled bikers and print makers. “If you can use the bumps in the road of life as something to propel you, you will learn the secret to how to live an optimal life,” he said.
A bump-free life is “absolutely not practical, and it would not be a content life to have a bump-free life,” he said. “It’s the bumps in the road of life, the twists and turns, that provide this human experience.”
Deming also rode in the Hiawatha Classic and was joined along the route by some of his fellow Above + Beyonders, who are training for an Iron Man competition in Colorado.
John Anderson, newly hired director of the McCreary Community Building, said he was impressed with the “awesome dynamic” he has so far found in Perry and saw Saturday’s events as further proof.
“The McCreary Community Building is a great asset to the community,” he said, “and it’s pretty exciting to see the energy and enthusiasm behind the Hiawatha Classic, the steamroller printing and all the other things people in Perry are getting behind.”
The annual bike ride coincided with the Steamroll Printmaking event at Caboose Park. The steamroll printing involved ISU Assistant Professor of art and visual culture Jennifer Drinkwater and half-a-dozen members of the ISU Print Club, who were joined by several Perry High School students and about 15 local artists.
The artists first printed their relief carvings individually using a hand press and then printed them as a group using a steamroller provided by the Perry Public Works Department. The group prints will be displayed in a Perry public art installation.
“This is a wonderful was to get people involved in public art,” said Mary Rose Nichols, who produced a stunning print for La Poste, the art and entertainment venue jointly run by her and partners Jenny Eklund and Ann Connors. “And I mean people who might not ordinarily think of themselves as artists,” Nichols said.
Perry Public Works Director Jack Butler drove the Star Wacker steamroller in the delicate art operation and made a good first impression.
“Events like this are great,” Butler said. “They give us a chance to do something a little different, and everybody’s having a great time.”
Sponsors and suppliers of the free Steamroll Printmaking event included the city of Perry, F. K. Stokely Lumber Co., Iowa State University Center for Town/Craft, Iowa State University Printmaking Club, Perry High School Art Instructor Jill Belgarde, La Poste, Mary Rose Collection, Perry High School and Perry Paint and Design.