Sweltering Bike Carnival – Tour de Fat!

bike festival below this balloon!


Tour de Fat is a festival in celebration of bicycles. It’s sponsored by New Belgium ales, and in particular, the celebration takes it’s name from the popular Fat Tire Ale.

referee of frivolity

Unlike most of Portland, we chose to brave the heat and head out to Tom McCall Waterfront Park for Tour de Fat this year. It’s a sad thing, too, that the turnout was low in the sweltering heat, because Tour de Fat is one of our favourite summertime traditions. Everyone who hovered selfishly at home under their air conditioners was unable to partake in the best of glorious silliness that PDX has to offer.

Bicycle parking lot. There are many more in the backgound. See them?

We enjoyed the usual romps from stage to stage, as we were entertained by comediennes and clowns, and a man who made a bologna sandwich with his feet! Doubt ye not! Because followed immediately by the last performer was his lovely accomplice from the audience who ATE the sandwich! Ha ha.

Musical entertainment

As usual, we watched the continuing tally of how many trees were saved, how much recycling was collected, and how much waste we saved from landfills, as the diligent servants of the festival collected our biodegradable beer cups made from corn, and did not collect in trash what we chose to recycle. A billboard with constant updates was easily viewed and constantly refreshed with the new numbers. Good on ya, mates!

karaoke so small it could fit in a porta-potty!

We resisted the temptation to sing karaoke in a porta pottie, and watched the slow race with delight. The slow race is, as it sounds, a race to see who can bicycle most slowly. The challenge is remaining upright and not touching a foot to the ground. Oh, and each contestant had to carry a full cup of New Belgium ale while they raced.

contestants line up for the slow ride

The “race” was followed by storytelling. Contestants sent their stories in ahead of time, and their names were chosen at the time of the event. Those who were present had their chance to tell their bicycle story, in two minutes or less, and win … A NEW BIKE! Handcrafted by the best and handed over with due solemnity.

contestants queuing to tell their bike story

The winning storyteller had a hilarious tale of the time when his bike trailer had no child in it, but instead contained a flat full of tomatoes that he had just purchased from the Farmer’s Market. A woman driving a car accidentally hit the trailer, sending it flying and spreading heaps of red, mangled, dripping… you guessed it: the driver of the vehicle was horrified. The bicyclist, catching on quickly to the misunderstanding, tapped into his evil core and shouted, “Oh my GOD!” before explaining to the woman driver that it was only tomatoes. Evilness and comedy are a great mix.

inside Le Tigre

We stepped into Le Tigre, and were entertained by an enthusiastic rapper and his gorgeous sidekick. Although advertised as “air conditioned,” the heat was too much for the air conditioner, and the place was a sauna. We glistened as we listened.

Le Tigre entertainments

One of the most entertaining for me was an arena filled with crazy bikes, open for anyone to enter the ring and attempt to ride a bike of their choosing. Bikes with 9 wheels, or with tennis shoes in a ring rather than wheels, double-seater bikes with the seats and handlebars facing opposite directions, track-wheeled bikes with levers rather than handlebars… you could not imagine the variety of bikes there! And eager participants were constantly jumping into the frenzy and trying their skills at machines attempting to defy them. It was riotous!

We caught another comedy act before we left, from the steps leading up to the Hawthorne Bridge above it all. From our perch we could get a final, satisfying look at all the eccentricities of our fellow Portlanders. What a fun city it is!

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