EAGLE COUNTY - It's been a long time since the annual Ride the Rockies cycling tour made an overnight stop in the valley. That means it's time for a celebration.
The annual tour - with as many as 2,000 participants and many more support crew and others - last stopped in the Vail Valley in 2000. Laurie Asmussen helped organize that party, and said this year's event promises to be much, much better.
"Last time they were here, Miller Ranch was still a ranch," Asmussen said. "We camped at (Berry Creek Middle School), then had to go under the interstate to the park in Singletree. Having it all in a central location this year will be great."
This year's stopover will all be in the Freedom Park area, centered around Battle Mountain High School and its athletic field.
Asmussen, who's been in the local event-planning business for more than 20 years, is helping pull together the nuts and bolts of the operation - camping sites, arranging water for the shower station that accompanies the riders and other jobs. The party has mostly been arranged by Vail Valley Partnership and NRC Presents.
Holli Snyder of NRC Presents said the Ride the Rockies stop is a great opportunity for the valley.
"This has to be one of the best venues they'll have this year," Snyder said. "We're going to have food, camping and entertainment all in one place - we can really take advantage of Battle Mountain High School and Freedom Park."
The party will start at noon, as the first riders come in from the Monday leg that starts in Buena Vista. The riders will be greeted by several local and regional bands, including Jukebox Heroes and Stereo Assassins. Odell Brewing and Garrett Estates will be on hand to serve beer and wine, too.
Local restaurants include Marko's, Nicky's Quickie and the Dusty Boot. Cameron Douglas, the restaurants' regional manager said the stopover should be great for business.
"We can always use more business this time of year," Douglas said. Even while the restaurant has become more selective about the events it participates in, Ride the Rockies is a great opportunity to show off the Dusty Boot's barbecue, he said.
Ride organizers are also giving something to some of the valley's nonprofits. The Youth Foundation recently received a $5,000 grant from the ride, and Vail Christian High School and Battle Mountain High School students are going to haul baggage and do other jobs, with tips going to support their causes.
The party is open to the whole valley, and Snyder said she hopes valley residents come out to take part. But the focus is on the one-night visitors, and hope is that some will return for a longer stop with their friends and families. Asmussen said hotels in Avon and Edwards have benefitted, too, since several riders and their families are booking rooms for this overnight stop. Other valley restaurants and shops are sure to see more traffic, too, despite the fact that the cyclists are just in for a quick visit.
But that visit comes at a good time, Asmussen said.
It's a huge deal for the valley," she said. "Any time we get people through Eagle County it helps us all, and it helps with our other events, too.