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Runnin’ with Rani: Kids rule at Waimea Bike Fest

November 3, 2017 - 12:05am

What began as a vision by Alex Candelario of Big Island Bike Tours to create a fun opportunity for Keiki to ride and run in a safe environment has now exploded into an annual affair providing kids with exciting events they can look forward to.

On Sunday, the atmosphere was electric as more than a hundred Keiki representing all districts of the Big Island turned out with their bikes, helmets, running shoes and Halloween costumes for the 2nd annual Waimea Bike Fest held at the historic Anna Ranch Heritage Center.

“We are super stoked at how many kids turned out this year,” Candelario said of the free event. “Ninety were pre-registered online and we are anticipating another 30 to 40 that will just show up so we are expecting well over a 100 kids which is double of what we had last year.”

Candelario, a former professional cyclist who moved to the Big Island a few years ago and co-owns Big Island Bike Tours with his wife, Hannah, began the Halloween themed event last year with the idea to promote cycling safety, basic riding education, bike handling skills, and introduce a few running events to those who are at the most impressionable ages — from 2-12.

“My sons Axel and Gus are six and three (years of age),” Candelario said. “They love to ride their bikes so this has been great.”

Candelario added that he was a bit worried of possibly not having enough volunteers with so many other activities and races happening over the weekend. Most of his friends were helping with the Waimea Anuenue Playground rebuild, or taking part in other races that included the George Heneghan Fun Run and the Run for the Dry Forest 10K/5K.

But back for a second year were staff members and an army of volunteers from well-known community organizations such as PATH (People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii), LavaKids, and Bike Works, who were present to help Candelario host the Bike Fest.

Each organization sponsored their own activities that included a PATH Bike Rodeo — where kids were taught the right way to ride — LavaKids trail runs, that included a 1-mile trail run and 100-yard keiki dash, Strider Keiki Races, a Mountain Keiki Exploration Bike Ride, a Bike Obstacle Course, and a Halloween Pumpkin Hunt.

“The whole idea was having a safe venue to get kids on their bikes, out on the off-road, and learning bike safety starting at a younger age,” said Janet Higa-Miller who co-owns Bike Works with her husband, Grant. “Last year was more of an introduction as some of the kids were a little apprehensive as they have never been to a venue like this with a ton of other kids.

“We emphasize cycling safety. They have to go through the PATH safety program, they have to get their bike checked, helmets are required all the time, and all of our activities are escorted by adults. I think the kids who were here last year are coming back with a new confidence and hopefully will try more of the advanced cycling course and activities. But it’s just super fun and we love it.”

Ted Spitaleri, an avid volunteer at many local swim-bike-run events and who helps to coordinate the monthly LavaKids funs runs held along Ane Keohokalole Highway, echoed Higa-Miller’s comments.

“We are still trying to keep it low key and we really don’t have any winners or losers, but we just want to make sure that everyone has a good time all the way from the hunt, to bikes, to run. The whole idea is to keep them interested and get them going in the right direction.”

For 4-year-old Pili Dayton-Smith, whose face was painted up as a butterfly, two words summed up what she enjoyed most about her morning.

“Riding bikes,” she said.

Her mother Tiffany however, had a few more words to say on what brought her family out to the morning activities.

“I signed up with PATH, so we do the LavaKids and we also did yesterday’s Run for the Dry Forest,” Tiffany said. “We are part of a healthy family so we are always eating healthy, active, running, and doing sports.”

Nine-year old Daymien Riley, who attends Mountain View Elementary School and had his face painted as a chicken, admitted that his bike wasn’t in the best shape. But when asked what he looked forward to the most about the second annual event he exclaimed, “Riding my bike!”

As to the future and expansion of the Waimea Bike Fest, Candelario says the wheels are already turning.

“Personally, I would love to get more kids on bikes and I would love to get a multi-day race scenario where you can actually get a mountain bike race — a real race to get more kids interested in riding and using their athletic skills just to help them get that spark going for riding. That’s kind of my dream. Along with that, getting something like this over in Hilo and maybe Kona. And with the staff we have I think we can definitely replicate this in other areas of the island.”

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