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Editorial: PD's bike rodeo was amazing

Dan McClelland

Tupper Lake Police Officer Mike Vaillancourt outdid himself this year in the 11th staging of his bike rodeo, sponsored annual by the Tupper Lake PD and several local groups and businesses.  Mike promised our readers last week the event would be bigger and better than any he has produced in the past and it was.
It was a grand affair, from its start at 10a.m. Saturday to the finish four hours later.  The laughter of hundreds of children and the very visible efforts of youngsters challenging themselves through skills and drills to be better bicycle operators were clear evidence of its success.
From humble beginnings 11 years ago when Officer Mike started the program to teach kids bicycle safety, its growth over the years has been amazing.  He told us last week he only had enough money to give out 15 bicycle helmets down at the firemen's strip that first year.
Last year, the first time it was held at the new Emergency Services Building after years at the L.P. Quinn lower parking lot, the event drew about 300 children and there were 140 bike helmets given away to local bike riders.
This year Mike figures there were 600 participants and 225 helmets were distributed to kids without them.  What a great investment in the community and in the health of our youngsters!
The weather was perfect Saturday, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the high sixties and low seventies....perfect bike riding weather.
Mike said this week our strong plug for his event in the story we ran about it in last week's issue was a big factor in the huge attendance boost this year.  Thanks, Mike! It's easy to promote good things and the annual bike rodeo is certainly one of those things.
There were some important lessons for kids and their parents to learn that day.
The New York State Police “seat belt convincer” roll-over vehicle, brought to the event by Trooper Mike Kohan and Station Commander and Sergeant Ryan Fountain, made a very vivid impression on the minds of everyone who watched it roll over that seat belts save lives.
Without a seat belt the dummy inside was freely tossed about and sometimes tossed out.  It didn't take much imagination to figure out how serious the injuries would have been to the dummy not wearing a seat belt.
At one point he folded like a crushed cup under the vehicle after expulsion.
Another greater demonstrator of danger that day was the Franklin County Traffic Safety Board's pedal car which youngsters were encouraged to drive through a course of cones, while wearing goggles that simulated impaired driving.  We took a look through them and everything was very distorted.  The kids struggled to stay on course, as a drunk driver would.
Through Rick Reandeau, who always brings along the Woodmen Life bounce house, two new portable slides were secured for the event from Taylor Rental in Saranac Lake.  Judging by the lines of kids waiting to board them they were extremely popular.
The little ones seemed to like to bounce but older kids really liked the slides, one of which was an alligator.
So popular were the inflatables that Mike plans to add another Taylor Rental piece- a 60 foot long inflated obstacle course with lots of challenges for youngsters.
There were both off road and on road courses to challenge the bike skills of kids, and there was a constant flow of riders through them.
DPW Superintendent Bob DeGrace and his men created an incredible course between the ESB and the arena and it featured a number of obstacles.  Great job, DPW'ers.
Flutterbug the Clown who has been making kids laugh and painting their faces since almost the event started was another popular feature of this year's event.
A large number of community volunteers were also present from the members of the Kiwanis Club signing up kids for free things including two new bicycles to students like Henry Denis tending to the
 obstacle courses to firemen like Haji Maroun and Scott Shannon cooking hot dogs and hamburgers.  The one we were offered was great, but paled, of course, to one of those Lions burgers, smothered with Lions onions, that were being served that day by Lions Kurt and Mark Garrelts down in the park at the James Person Memorial Tournament
The inside of the fire station was filled with booths and vendors giving out assortments of safety reminders and souvenirs to the kids.
One of the greatest things about Mike's event is that there is never an excuse for any child or adult to leave hungry.
Shaheen's Supermarket generated the makings of 500 hamburgers and hot dogs- and added another 50 sets when the firemen ran out.  The local IGA is very generous when it comes to kids, as many of our local businesses are.
Dozens of pizzas were furnished by Guido's Pizzeria.
Stewarts completely ran out of its five large tubs of ice cream, given out as part of its make your own sundae gift.
There were only five bottles of water left from a donation by Jreck Subs of over 400 bottles.
The Larsen family's ice machine couldn't keep up to the demand for free snow cones.
Judging by the sticky faces we saw the Piercefield Fire Department ladies auxiliary's cotton candy was a hit too.  Pounds and pounds of delicious popcorn was generated by the Aubuchon Hardware staff.
With all the various types of treats available, we reckon there was more than a few kids with upset bellies that evening.
The availability of two bike mechanics from High Peaks Cyclery, who came armed this year with a host of bike parts for fixes on the spot, was a big boost for the event this year.  In past years there has been only one mechanic there for free tune-ups.
One local mother on a fixed income was incredibly appreciative of the repairs done to her daughter's bike there.  Without the assistance of that company she didn't have the money to get her child's bike fixed this summer and the girl would have went without.  The mother's eyes were full of tears as she thanked Officer Vaillancourt.
Something new this year- in an effort to keep kids there until 2p.m. was a huge giveaway of 75 gift certificates to McDonald's for Happy Meals and 100 Stewart's sundaes.  It didn't work out as well as Mike planned, time-wise.  It took almost 45 minutes to call out and find the winners.  Next year  Mike is just going to call up all the kids and give them free certificates for the treats.
The budget for the event has grown dramatically over the years.  In the early years Officer Vaillancourt spent weeks drumming up funds for it.
This year the event got a $2,000 boost from the village its the police department's budget and $5,000 when a $2,500 gift from the Sellon family of Gull Pond was matched by the Adirondack Trust.
Mike will be working with the Adirondack Trust's Russ Cronin in the week's ahead for other gifts from the charitable foundation.
Not counting the very generous donations of food products and gifts from local business, over $10,000 is spent each year on helmets and other products that are given out to local children.
Mike told us this week his event would not be possible without the amazing support he gets from this community, its organizations and businesses.
They are the reason, he says, the event continues to flourish year after year, treating kids and their families to a great day and teaching them valuable lessons of bicycle safety.
-Dan McClelland