Words & Deeds

After Boise numbers dive, organizers vow to bring back ‘best possible’ Tour de Fat

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was going to happen at Tour de Fat in Boise.

Not even a bike mechanic.

Anyone smart enough to pump up a tire knew that attendance was going to go flying over the handlebars.

After attracting 12,000 riders to the bicycle parade in 2016, Tour de Fat lured 5,000 to Ann Morrison Park last Saturday — less than half. After raising $63,365 for local bicycle nonprofits last year, Tour de Fat generated $19,948 — less than one-third.

There were still many reasons to go, even if you were a hater about the controversial overhaul of this year’s festival. It was still a philanthropic event with excellent intentions. Thousands of folks in the bicycle parade had a blast. Riding to the steps of the state Capitol was a cool change.

But post-festival numbers tell the story.

After putting on a free festival in the park after the bike parade each year, last weekend’s shindig — which cost $25 — was held separately at the Idaho Botanical Garden’s Outlaw Field. Attendance was 1,500, according to organizer New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colo. Outlaw Field holds 4,000.

Where were all the costumed freaks?

Where was the zany cycling spirit that had powered Tour de Fat during its 15 prior years in Boise?

Still, there is good news — potentially great news. Marketing mistakes do not appear to have doomed Tour de Fat. In a post-event statement about the Boise stop, New Belgium Brewing Co. public relations director Bryan Simpson indicated that Tour de Fat would be back. And he gave Idaho bicycle fans hope for the future.

“The feedback we received in Boise was that while our efforts to reach more people and raise more money for Boise Bicycle Project, Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association and Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance were noble, some of the tradition and culture of the Tour de Fat was lost,” Simpson said. “Going forward, our ambition to grow the event will be balanced with maintaining the vibe and bike-i-ness that we all have collectively built over the years. We’ve heard from community members who are disappointed by many of the Tour de Fat’s changes this year and we appreciate their comments and concerns. We’ll use their feedback to bring back the best possible event in 2018.”

Does that mean that Tour de Fat won’t charge admission? Not necessarily. Writing a yearly check for a massive, free event with no quantifiable return to New Belgium probably is not sustainable.

The important part is that New Belgium seems determined to revive Tour de Fat in 2018, kicking it up a few gears.

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