Updated: Jul 8
Q & A with event organizers Jennifer Gonzales and Amy Kenreich
In Spring 2018, Lincoln Elementary (in the Washington Park neighborhood) hosted their second annual after-school bike rodeo to celebrate Bike to School Day. After a free safety check-up, students, neighbors, and their families made their way through two bike obstacle courses, a rules of the road course, and a helmet decorating station, with guided rides through the neighborhood. We spoke with event organizers Amy Kenreich and Jennifer Gonzales about their planning process and key takeaways for a community-hosted bike rodeo.
What inspired you to throw a bike rodeo at Lincoln? Lincoln Elementary is a community school. Many of our students walk or ride their bikes/scooters/skateboards to and from school. We decided to plan for Lincoln’s first bike rodeo in conjunction with Walk and Bike to School Day as a means to promote bicycle safety in a fun interactive way, while continuing to build community through exercise.
What was your planning process like? When did you start planning, how many people were involved? How did you keep track of tasks and needs?
Jennifer: Initially we began with the idea of a bike rodeo in Fall 2016 (after the first Walk & Bike to School Day), and decided Spring 2017 would be best to host our first bike rodeo. Most of the planning occurred in the second semester leading up to our May event. The planning was mostly between Amy and I (Jennifer Gonzales), but we did also involve our Principal and Facility Manager and conducted a pre-event meeting with Campus Cycles (one of our community sponsors). We also used Basecamp to communicate, and manage our project easily. Signupgenius.com was used to collect volunteers as we neared the event date.
Amy: We also used Google Forms to create a signup page. This was SO HELPFUL because when kids were signed up online, each registrant’s info populated a Google spread sheet, so nothing had to be manually entered.
Please describe the activities you chose for the rodeo, including materials and volunteer/ staffing needs for each.
Ideally 1-2 volunteers per station, with the exception of our obstacle course (at least 4 volunteers) and rules of the road (off course skill application) needed more supervision.
Safety check- Campus Cycles (local bicycle shop) had two people provide tune-up/maintenance services to our cycling community for free. This was our busiest station! This local bicycle shop brought all their own equipment and provided bicycle accessories to raffle off and donate.
Bike helmet decorating station- this station had one adult supervising. A large table was set up with various craft items to make helmet-decorating FUN! For example: chalk markers, googly eyes, stickers, glow in the dark stickers/ paint, yarn pom poms, assorted colored pipe cleaners, brightly colored duct tape etc. This was one of our most popular stations! Chalk markers were great because they wash off with water.
Obstacle courses- this was an on campus obstacle course. We used various types of cones and signs on our black top to ensure the flow of the course was easily understood for all riders. We marked the “start” of the courses with specific colored balloons, which made it visually easier for riders to know where to begin. This was especially helpful to be able to point across the playground and say “go to the red balloons to start that course.” The first obstacle was a cone weave, to a straight-line coast, to a rock dodge, and then finished with a circle steering obstacle. Students had the opportunity to continuously navigate the above course to refine their maneuvering skills, or they could try the next course which consisted of a figure 8 obstacle, a bumpy bridge to ride over, then finished with a slow race. Please see layout images. Students also attempted to practice their turns at these obstacles.
Rules of the Road- Was our off-campus application of cycling skills. A specific route was mapped out that bordered the outside of our school and neighborhood, in which students could practice turning, signaling, stopping, and maneuvering around real-world obstacles. Students had to be accompanied by a parent/guardian and volunteers were stationed at appropriate areas of course to supervise students and families in route effectively.
Borrow-a-Bike Station- We wanted all students to be able to participate in the bike rodeo. Our borrow-a-bike station was a way students could do so if they did not have a bike, or did not have a means of getting their bike to school that day. They also had an opportunity to borrow a helmet. Students and their parent would report to this station and essentially checkout a bike from our volunteer station worker. Student’s provided their name (First & Last, & contact information). Students returned items checked once done participating. Families within our Lincoln community brought in extra bikes from home to loan. We also had some teachers donate children’s bikes.
Family Ride- Our family bike Ride took place after the bike raffle and concluded our event. Students and families rode their bikes a few blocks down from our school and returned; all while applying some of the “rules of the road” they learned earlier during the event.
Water Station/ First Aid Station /Snacks: We were fortunate to have our student council assist with selling nachos, and running our raffle. Pedal Heads (Pedalheads.com) and our local bicycle shop Campus Cycles donated helmets, t-shirts, bike bells, water bottles etc. Whole foods donated fruit (bananas and oranges) for our event. We also had a basic self –serve first aid station (band aids, sanitizer, etc.) incase of any minor injuries.
How did you manage all the activities? Were any more successful than others? Jennifer: Since the Bike Rodeo took place right after school, we were very thoughtful in ensuring we had volunteers that would also help with set-up beginning earlier in the day, so that all was ready by 3:50p.m. During the event we utilized parent volunteers, teachers/staff volunteers, student volunteers, and SRTS volunteers to manage activities. We also had volunteers to specifically help with clean up as well. We would not have been able to do all this without all the amazing help from our volunteers. Amy: One big help was printing out a list of “to-dos” for the day of. When a volunteer approached me asking how they could help, I was able to hand them the list and they could pick one of the items and execute.
How did you spread the word about the rodeo? What strategies seemed most/least effective? Jennifer: We used quite a few different ways to spread the word about our event. Facebook, school newsletter, our schools mobile application, flyers posted on campus, registration forms and information sent home in student’s Thursday folders, and as the physical education teacher, I spoke to all classes frequently about their upcoming bike rodeo. I think all of these strategies in conjunction were effective. Although, being able to speak to the students during Physical Education class I felt really helped promote the event and answer any questions they had. Amy: I think that Jennifer talking to the kids during class was one of the biggest reasons we had a good turnout. This created a “buzz” for sure.
Did you receive any feedback about the rodeo from families or kids? We did get some informal feedback from the community. Teachers and staff who attended were very pleased with the turnout and organization, and observing the event students looked happy and seemed to be having fun while learning and building skills! Speaking with parents and families post event, they also seemed very pleased with the bike rodeo and many expressed making bike rodeo a school tradition.
Are you planning to host another bike rodeo? Why or why not? Yes we are! Everyone was so supportive about having this event, parents and families were eager to help in any way, and the kids loved it! Additionally, now that our first bike rodeo is complete, we now can make next school year’s bike rodeo bigger and better.
Would you do anything differently next time? Jennifer: We loved the idea of the family bike parade to conclude the event, although we may consider changing the route of the parade or reserving a permit to block a street to ensure enough space and safety for our riders. Amy: The bike parade was intended to be a family parade, but it turned out to be a lot of kids and not very many adults. Update: for the second Lincoln Rodeo, police escorts led small group rides at intervals around the neighborhood, followed by an escorted family ride at the end.
What advice do you have for other schools or organizations who are thinking about throwing their own rodeo? Reach out to local bicycle organizations early! Many bicycle businesses are more than willing to help with volunteering services, or donating items, but early notice for them is needed. Also contact bicycle organizations to borrow resources such as traffic signs, extra cones, fluorescent vests etc. Have a “rain date” set and ensure you have volunteers for the rain date as well. Give volunteers examples of bike obstacles when you ask them to build one.
How can Denver Safe Routes/CALC better assist in the planning process for future events (for Lincoln and in general)? Having more volunteers could give students more individualized feedback on their skills, also receiving feedback from SRTS & CALC on how to improve educational experience during rodeo. We are open to feedback & suggestions.
Thanks, Amy and Jennifer, for sharing your amazing event and thoughts!