The Blue Plum Festival’s main Sunday event — the Johnson City Omnium — continues to grow in popularity with both the fans and the participants.
This year, two other restaurants, Tipton Street Pub and One12 Downtown, have joined The Main Street Pizza Company in providing outdoor seating and menu options for spectators who like a bite to eat or a drink to sip while watching spills and thrills on the downtown Johnson City bike course.
The event’s founder, Reneau Dubberley, said this is the perfect way to watch the race and that several thousand people are expected to come out and enjoy what he calls a “European-styled” sporting event, where fans are expected to cheer and celebrate. Compared with Saturday events, Dubberley said Sundays used to be a down time for businesses around the downtown streets, but the bike race gave a number of them reason to open up.
Tipton Street Pub has decided to take part in the fun by expanding their patio, going smoke-free for the 12-3 hours and providing specials, too.
James Thompson, the pub’s general manager, said he’s been hoping to transition the focus of the business more to the food than from the smoking-friendly college bar atmosphere and giving cycling fans a place to order food and drinks givse him a perfect opportunity, especially given the pub’s proximity to a corner, which can increase the level of excitement in the races.
On the corners is where the crashes tend to take place, Dubberley said, and that the new crosswalks in the downtown area become slick as ice when they get wet if it were to rain. This kind of wet weather last year accounted for about 40 crashes over the course of the day. Though this is somewhat dangerous for the riders, it’s exciting for the fans, Dubberley said.
“You can really see the skills of the racers,” he said.
Skills are needed on this course and that’s what makes the sport so appealing, even to people who are seeing quick-paced cycling for the first time. It very much resembles the kind of characteristics needed to succeed in NASCAR, Dubberley said, which helps serve it to people in east Tennessee, where it could handle more popularity.
There’s drafting, high speeds, prize money and crashes, Dubberley said, calling it a spectacular sporting event that is easily accessible to all. Because the race is spread out across several blocks in the downtown area, you don’t have to worry about holding onto your section of the sidewalk for the entirety of the day and are encouraged to make your way around downtown.
Perhaps the best part is the price of admission: zero dollars. Dubberly said anyone is welcome to park in the big parking lot on State of Franklin Road and find their spectating spots.
From the early morning through about 3:30 p.m., there will be races going on with only about 15 minutes in between each, making a neverending flow of the action.
Another European-styled athletic competition in the Blue Plum Festival is the 4th Annual Blue Plum 7’s Rugby Tournament at Civitan Park. It’s set to take place Saturday and feature regional teams with the help and organization of the Johnson City Rugby Football Club and the Molly Pitchers Rugby Club. The competition is made for both men’s and women’s teams and each team will be playing at least three matches.
For more information about the Blue Plum Festival events and attractions, go to the official website at www.blueplum.org.
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