Jean Najjar and Erin McCracken stepped out from underneath a large tent as steady rain dissipated to a light sprinkle.
It may not have mattered, as they were drenched from carrying food out to the tent earlier in the day for bikers in an event that kicked off Local Foods Week.
The event, PASA Bike Fresh Bike Local Centre County, was organized by the Millheim-based Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. The turnout reached about 150.
“We had 180 bikers preregister, and 130 of them showed up and over a dozen walk-ins,” Najjar, PASA’s outreach associate, said. “The rain can be a little off-putting, but we appreciate that so many bikers came out. We were prepared for a lot more riders, so there will be plenty of food once they’re finished riding.”
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Ben Barben and Caitlin Quinn, both of Huntingdon, said they were apprehensive about biking in the rain.
“I was a little nervous, because we just started road biking and didn’t know how our bikes would handle in the rain,” Quinn, 26, said. “We actually had a lot more fun than we thought we would.”
Barben, 27, said his father operates a small organic farm called Berry Mountain Farm, and the event was also a way for them to support local farmers.
“It’s his retirement project, and he sells organic produce, so we like to support local farms,” Barben said.
Other riders said they tried to wait out the showers, but decided they would get caught in the rain no matter what time they rode.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever started to ride when it was raining, because usually you can just wait it out,” David Miller, 41, said. “Usually if you’re riding in the rain you get caught, and you’re just kind of forced to deal with it.”
While both David and Sonya Miller, of State College, said they came out for the bike ride and meal, they also support locally grown food.
“We belong to a CSA, shop at the farmers markets and try to eat locally as much as we can,” Sonya, 39, said. “This was a way for us to ride and support local farmers, so it was a win-win, and we got to eat good food and drink good beer.”
Bill Curran, a professor of weed science at Penn State, said his wife stayed home to avoid the weather.
“We looked at the weather before I left, and I thought it was moving away from us,” Curran said. “Sure enough, she was right and it rained for all but a half-hour of the time that I rode. I did 25 miles for about two hours, but despite the rain, it’s a great event to support.”
While not every preregistered biker braved the weather, some still showed up for the food and to meet new people.
“I didn’t ride, because it really was the weather,” said Joe Bonner, 51, of Queens, N.Y. “I only found out about this just before the (preregister) deadline, so it really was a spur of the moment decision to do it. I decided I didn’t want to ride in the rain, but I still wanted to come here, eat and talk to some people.”
Najjar said the event was a joint effort by several local businesses.
“Folks at EcoVents did the catering and donated a lot of their time, Lady Moon Farms donated the produce and gave us money for the meat, and Elk Creek Cafe donated the beer, so we’re lucky to have all of them involved,” she said.
McCracken, who co-owns EcoVents, said they catered because of PASA’s sustainability values.
“I think we really like to do interesting and fun events like this with people that like good food and share our vision,” McCracken said. “We have a mission to be as green as possible and waste as little as possible.”