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VOL. 133 | NO. 139 | Friday, July 13, 2018

Meritan Bike Tour Plans Big Changes For 2018

K. Denise Jennings

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Memphis-based social services provider Meritan Inc.’s biggest fundraiser, the Moonlight Classic Bike Tour and Tailgate, has big changes this year, including a new presenting sponsor, a new venue, a new time and a new route.

The 19th annual event will be held Aug. 4 in Downtown Memphis for the first time. Festivities will begin at 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the presenting sponsor, Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. Music, vendors and the Bling Yourself and Bling Your Bike contest will take place prior to the race start time at 10 p.m. and food and drink will be provided after the race.

Meritan’s offices moved downtown in December of 2017, and the company wanted to bring their signature fundraiser to their new home. “We wanted to embrace our new location, and people have been asking us to move it downtown,” said Tammy Pierce, associate vice president of development compliance and corporate outreach for Meritan and co-director of this year’s Moonlight Classic. “Most bike races take place in East Memphis or Midtown, and this will give riders a chance to see the sights of Downtown Memphis lit up at night in a safe environment.”

Chessie Biggam, left, Meritan’s development and communications coordinator, and Tammy Pierce, the organization’s associate vice president of development compliance and corporate outreach, are responsible for coordinating the Meritan Moonlight Classic Bike Tour. (Daily News/Houston Cofield)

Organizers are hoping that starting pre-race activities at 8 p.m. and the race at 10 p.m. will attract more families and younger participants. Several area bike shops are vendors at the race and will be offering Nike safety training and on-site help for new riders, and Meritan has partnered with Explore Bike Share so people who do not own their own bikes can participate.

“It’s normally at midnight, but we’ve moved it to 10 (p.m.) for safety reasons and for the benefit of our vendors and children.” said Chessie Biggam, Meritan development and community coordinator and co-director of the Moonlight Classic.

In lieu of the usual 15-mile route, the race will follow an eight-mile route which can be traveled once, or repeated for a 16-mile route. The shorter route option and earlier time are to encourage younger participants and novice bikers to take part in the event, said Biggam. The route will not be announced until participants pick up their registration, and there will be a police escort for the race and additional security all along the route. Memphis-based Start to Finish will also be managing the Moonlight Classic Bike Tour this year.

The Moonlight Classic Bike Tour has been successful since its inception with 700 riders participating in last year’s event. Organizers expect nearly 800 this year. There is no age limit for participation, but children under 18 must have a parent or guardian with them. With volunteers and staff, that could mean 1,000 people participating in the event, said Pierce.

Traditionally, participants have dressed up and decorated their bikes following all kinds of themes, from glow lights to super heroes for Bling Yourself and Bling Your Bike competitions. Groups of volunteers and staff are stationed at the corners to cheer on participants, and this year they will get in on the action with a Bling Your Corner contest.

Money raised from the event will benefit the myriad of affiliates under the Meritan umbrella that offer services to seniors and children throughout the region. Services include senior care, specialized foster and programs for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. “Meritan fills in the gaps that exist in serving those in need in the community,” said Biggam.

The 19th Annual Moonlight Classic Bike Tour is funded in part by the contribution of its signature sponsor Bass Pro Shops. Other sponsors are Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance, Diversified Trust, Monogram Foods, Apelah, Patriot Bank, archimania, Huey’s, Clif Bar and The Jewel Law Firm.

Last year’s Moonlight Classic raised $25,000 and organizers are expecting to raise close to $35,000. “For every dollar raised we’re able to provide $36 in services,” said Pierce. Meritan has multiple grants and vendors that offer matches to what the company earns, so the fundraising for this event is exponentially impactful, she said.

The entry fee for the bike tour is $45 and $30 for military, college students and first responders through Friday, August 3 at www.meritan.org. Walk up registration is available for $55 and $40.

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