It wouldn’t be Bike Night without bikes and there were about 2,000 of them lining the downtown streets of Winchester on Sept. 14. The weather was a bit cool, but dry and the skies seemed to clear as the evening wore on. The construction that had been a fact of life for most of the summer had been completed. More importantly though, there were bikes and lots and lots of people who all seemed ready for a party. Tinkess Photo
WINCHESTER – It has been a difficult year for the group of volunteers who put together the Bike Night events that happen once a month from June through September in downtown Winchester. After having a successful three out of four events in 2022, they seemed to be on Mother Nature’s bad side, and had each of their events cancelled due to poor weather conditions.
That is, until Sept. 14. On Sept. 14, they held their first and last Bike Night of 2023 and it’s fair to say that the first three non-starters were pretty much forgotten.
The weather was a bit cool, but dry and the skies seemed to clear as the evening wore on. The construction that had been a fact of life for most of the summer had been completed. More importantly though, there were bikes, lots of bikes, nearly 2,000 in fact, and lots and lots of people who all seemed ready for a party.
Organizer Vince Zandbelt was asked how good it felt, after all the work and planning, to see the event happen. “It was a huge relief,” said Zandbelt. Everybody was a little bit on edge because you’re looking at your phones every two hours.
“Anyways, this week cleared up, and we were very, very happy. I think the cooler weather may have had some effect, but we’re very happy with the turnout.”
One person who was particularly pleased was Jane Schoones, team leader for Community Food Share. “It was so important for this event to get off the ground,” said Schoones. “It was magnificent; the charities did a great job selling tickets before and during the event, so that sort of helped save the previous charities. And it’s wonderful that tonight is Black Walnut (Prostate Cancer support group) doing the 50/50. They also did a lot of pre-sales, so I think a pot should be pretty good later this evening.”
The pot was very good, and Shaler Hill walked away with $1,630.
“It’s been wonderful for the food bank because we requested condiments,” added Schoones. “And as you can see, (pointing to an overflowing shopping cart) the crowd came forward for us.
That they did, with over 340 lbs of food being collected as well as donations totalling $150.
“I can’t say enough about a wonderful, beautiful, perfect night,” added Schoones. “And everybody’s enjoying themselves and it couldn’t happen without the support of local businesses and dairy businesses, and it’s really great to see all the local food vendors be able to participate and do so well.”
North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser was present at the event, as he is for most any event in the township. He was sharing in the joy of seeing something that benefits so many successfully come to fruition.
“The weather, this is the right temperature, the right evening, the right atmosphere,” said Fraser. “It’s as if it was meant to be all summer long but unfortunately, we couldn’t host the events. The downtown committee couldn’t host the events because of the weather but tonight it’s well received and seemingly well appreciated by everyone in attendance.”
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility when you have this many people, many from out of the area, and with alcohol being served that there is a chance of unfortunate incidents occurring, but that doesn’t seem to be the case in Winchester. This event is most assuredly a family event. Grandparents, parents, and children, all enjoying themselves together and policing themselves as well. There didn’t seem to be any need for anything more.
“I was just saying to a person I was talking to about how we’re so fortunate to live in a community in North Dundas where people can come from outside and feel comfortable, enjoy the evening, meet other people and meet people that have similar interests and enjoy each other’s company,” added Fraser.
It would be difficult to even begin recognizing all of those who contributed to the success of Bike Night, suffice to say that with the assistance and guidance of some, the effort of the many leads to making Winchester, and North Dundas the place that it is.
Here’s to hoping that the second Thursday of June, July, August, and September 2024 enjoy clear skies, because events like this are worth repeating.
Terry Tinkess is a professional photographer, educator and journalist. He has been making a living with a camera and keyboard since 1999 and has been featured in such publications as The Ottawa Citizen, Cornwall Standard Freeholder, The Globe and Mail, The Miami Herald, Ottawa Construction News, The Ontario Construction Report, Ontario Home Builder Magazine, Reed Construction Data, Canadian Potato Business and most recently, The Record and Eastern Ontario AgriNews. Terry lives in Ingleside, Ontario with his wife Brenda, Mia the anxious Pittie and cats Wally and Chubbers.