The Alabama Cycling Classic is only a few weeks away, and across the city, volunteers, businesses, organizations, and others are tidying up and preparing to welcome cycling teams and their families from around the nation and the world. The annual event, held on the weekend of April 8 and 9, includes two professional road race events, the Sunny King Criterium on Saturday and the McClellan Road Race on Sunday. The Noble Street Festival, presented by the city of Anniston, is held on Saturday, April 8, in conjunction with the Sunny King Criterium.
Downtown merchant organization Main Street Anniston plans to deck downtown with colorful baskets of hanging flowers and decorative window murals. The group is partnering with the Anniston Council on the Arts & Humanities to host a 5K Shamrockin’ Color Run/Walk on March 18. Proceeds will be used to purchase the baskets and flowers and to print large-format window graphics that will feature historic images of Anniston. Organizers see this as a simple and effective way to make downtown more beautiful during the ACC as well as to show hometown pride to the world. (Interested in sponsoring this project? Contact Meredith Strain at (256) 689-5479.)
Presenters of the Noble Street Festival say that its goal is to connect local citizens with the international flavor of the cycling events and “bring on the cheering squad”. Race coordinators emphasize the importance of such local events noting their ability to generate greater awareness and appreciation of the sport of cycling as well as to provide a sense of hospitality for national and international participants and their families.
There’s an unspoken rule of thumb among festival organizers that if an annual event can survive the first five years, its odds of continuing are fairly good. Festival coordinator and local resident Neeli Faulkner has worked with the event in various capacities for several years. She’s learned the art of refinement as she’s observed what works and what doesn’t. She’s also experienced the impact – economically as well as culturally – that the festival and criterium have on the local community.
More than 150 volunteers with Relay for Life form the chief corps of support during the races. They usher guests safely across the race course, keep a watchful eye on far corners of the course and work in every way possible to make the event great. Throughout the year, they serve as advocates for the event, recruiting new volunteers, chatting up potential sponsors or perhaps becoming one themselves. All of this community feel-good activity helps support the annual financial gift that the Criterium gives to Relay for Life.
Faulkner and others have also worked with local and state tourism representatives to broaden the impact of the Criterium and Festival. She points out that the two events combined attract one of the largest audiences in the State to an event that is not the typical music-centered affair.
Noble Street Festival may celebrate all things cycling, but the locals never miss an opportunity to enjoy (and share) home town fare. Local restauranteurs will brush up their menus with cycling-themed items and a few will serve up tastings of their cuisine during the festival’s main attraction, Taste on Noble.
Mellow Mushroom restaurant has long played a significant role in the Festival and Criterium. Owner Terry Phillis, Jr., is an avid cyclist and hosts teams at his home each year in addition to sponsoring the children’s Mellow Mushroom Mad Dash. His cycling-themed restaurant recently underwent a fascinating transformation with the addition of sculptures made of bicycle parts.
After a one-year hiatus, Cooter Brown’s Ribs will return in 2017. This festival favorite was featured in the State Tourism Department’s 100 Dishes to Eat In Alabama Before You Die campaign. Faulkner says keeping the list small, yet offering diversity and a true taste of the area is important.
2017 Noble Street Festival Food Vendors (as of 2/14/17):
- Mad Hatter Cupcakes
- Cooter Browns
- Mellow Mushroom
- Chick Filet
- Brain Freeze
- Southern Girl Coffee Co.
- Lemonade Vending
The Noble Street Festival draws several thousand residents and tourists throughout the day. While many see it as an opportunity to entertain the kids, visitors also become transfixed along the race route as they await the next loop of the cyclists. The Festival is free although a few of the activities such as carnival rides, bouncy houses, face painting, and balloons require tickets, which can be purchased from ticket tents. As always, cheering on the cyclists is free!
Can make it downtown? Watch the races online at E-Box Live Stream.
More for the kiddos
Mellow Mushroom Mad Dash, 4:50 PM
Running race for kids is an exciting, one-lap trot around 3/4 mile bike race course with a super awesome finish before fans!
The Scion/YMCA Kidz Bike Race, 5:20 PM
Kids tricycle age to grade six pedal their bikes a few hundred yards and cross the finish line in front of cheering fans.
Fee to participate in each race (discount if kids race both); register at Classic on Noble on Saturday, March 28, from noon to 4:00 PM. T-shirts for every participant while supplies last.
Home Depot Workshop, 11 to 5 PM
Workshop with special hands-on project designed for little fingers!
Dogs are allowed; however, they MUST be kept on a leash. Cyclists speed around the race course at very high rates of speed, and a runaway dog in the road would be disastrous.
The Noble Street Festival is a presentation of the City of Anniston. Visit online for vendor applications.