Aug 312011
 
Authors: Marcus Mortiz

The school year is just beginning, fall is approaching and the Fort Collins community is about to celebrate its early version of Halloween: the Tour de Fat.

Tour de Fat, put on by New Belgium Brewery, is one of the most prominent bike parades across the country.

Every year the tour makes its stop in the Brewery’s home town of Fort Collins. The Tour de Fat was started by New Belgium Brewery as a way to advocate and celebrate beer and bicyclist culture.

“Ft. Collins is where this cycling carnival first came to life, so it’s always fun when we get
to bring it back home,” Bryan Simpson, a spokesperson for New Belgium, said in a news release. “People who haven’t witnessed Tour de Fat don’t quite know what to expect, but that’s what we love. It’s an uninhibited day of quirky costumes, bikes and entertainment while supporting our
non-profit friends.”
This year they will be celebrating the 11th year of the tour by traveling through 13 different cities.
“It started off as a beer party that included bikes,” Matt Kowal, a New Belgium and Tour de Fat representative, said. “Now it’s more of a bike party with New Belgium beer.”

David Kemp, one of the main people behind starting the tour, did so with everything that he needed in the back of his truck. Since then, the tour has grown to needing at least two semi-trucks, several other vans and trucks and many full-time employees.

The tour includes musical acts, as well as performers from the Blue Man Group and circus performers from Cirque du Soleil.

“Adding and building in music to the tour came pretty naturally,” Kowal said. “We would use the music to create an atmosphere for the times when we would set up people trading in their cars for bikes along the tour. One time we did a Blues Brothers revival style song for the person who was trading in their car for a bike. It really makes it a moment for that person and the people who see it.”

The tour has grown since then, and it will have three stages at the Fort Collins stop this year.
As if locals needed any other reason to dress up, ride bikes and drink beer, the Tour de Fat is yet another excuse.

Olivia Hanna, a senior physics and art major, is planning on dressing up as a Viking this year.
Seeing as this is her first year participating, she may be in for quite a shock as to what most of the people there look like.

Most of the participants take part in the costume fun of the parade, with people looking like everything from cowboys and clowns to superheroes.

“I think that dressing up goes back to when we were kids,” Kowal said. “When you would play dress-up and go outside with your friends and ride your bike. That, and it keeps the locals entertained and doesn’t scare them all off when thousands of bikers descend on their town.”

One of New Belgium’s main concerns is the eco-friendliness of their business. The company was started on the back of a bicycle in Belgium (hence the name and logo of their most recognizable beer – Fat Tire) and since then tried to maintain that image.

It’s only natural that a company that is environmentally-friendly and got its start on a bike would create a bike tour that celebrates exactly those things. That, and beer.

One of the newer parts of the Tour de Fat –– called the Car For Bike Trade –– is where someone from the tour gets selected to turn their car over to New Belgium. In return for this favor, the participant gets a brand new cruiser bike made special for the event.

Another point the Tour de Fat tries to make is spreading the good name of New Belgium and the beer they make.

“The tour gives people a chance to see what New Belgium is all about first hand,” Kowal said. “It also gives us a chance to go out in the community and meet artists and musicians who we might want to include in the next Tour de Fat. Not to mention, it puts us in touch with much of our beer drinking community.”

Along with being sustainable, New Belgium does a lot of giving back to the community. The
Tour de Fat is one way that they make that happen.

The tour gives back to the communities it travels through by taking a lot of the money it makes and donating it to local nonprofit stores and companies.

Local shops like bike co-ops and Bike Fort Collins are a few of the recipients, and these companies take the money from the Tour de Fat and make biking more accessible to the community.

The Tour de Fat has been raising money for these local shops since the beginning, and it has almost raised $2 million for nonprofits.

The idea for the Tour de Fat goes back to when New Belgium got its start as a company.
“New Belgium’s love for bikes is part of our DNA,” Kowal said. “There’s something about when you slow down and ride a bike; and sometimes doing that makes some really great ideas come into your head.”

Staff writer Marcus Moritz can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

What: Tour de Fat.
When: Saturday at 10 a.m.
Where: Civic Center Park.
More information: newbelgium.com.

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