It was another great year for Tour de Lights, though it was a very cold night. Our strange recent weather produced probably two weeks of warm weather before and another warm spell to follow (including 70+ degrees on Christmas Day), but sitting right in the middle of our winter heat wave was one day of highs in the 30s. That had to be the Tour de Lights day, right?
I’d pondered riding, but the weather and a late arriving photo pass to the Punch Brothers made me decide otherwise. Honestly, by the time I stood outside taking photographs of the riders for about an hour, I felt I’d made the right decision. Santa hats off to the thousand or so riders who braved the elements and took the plunge. The number included many children, which made me feel more than a little wimpish.
I said last year and I’ll say it again: I think this event is a barometer of the burgeoning cycling scene in Knoxville, which will only grow. A thousand cyclists of all ages, sizes and descriptions joined together for a night of fun and physical exuberance. The square was full of blinking lights and tinsel an hour before the ride and only grew more packed up to starting time.
The night was impacted for many of the riders by the death earlier in the day of Andie Ray a long-time downtown booster, previous owner of an early business on the square, Vagabondia. She sported the best hats in the city and her missing smile and spirit were noted by many. A long term rider of the Tour de Lights and a previous award winner, her family decided to place her bike outside their home, which was on the route, as a tribute. A celebration of life will be held Tuesday night, December 29, on Market Square (some sources say in the Square Room).
After I’d stood at the corner of Gay and Wall, photographing until my hands were numb, I walked back to the square where I was amazed to see large groups of riders still waiting for the others to clear so they could take to the street. It was a grand statement for how far cycling has come in the city and, as always, a good night for all.
Does it sound like fun? Join up next year and find like-minded people who enjoy cycling. I’ll be there. At least taking pictures, but maybe finally taking the plunge, who knows? Hope you enjoy the photos. Hopefully I’ll put the other few dozen up on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page a little later on.