Newton County is gearing up for the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia which kicks off in Oxford on Sunday.
Covington Main Street director Josephine Kelly and Clara Deemer, director of tourism for Covington Newton County are working with members of the community to prepare downtown Covington for an influx of visitors as B.R.A.G. promises to bring people from all over the country together.
Porterdale Downtown Manager Sandy Fowler is also busy preparing Porterdale for visitors and Deemer has arranged a shuttle bus to transport visitors back and forth between the two cities.
"We want it to really be a festive atmosphere," Deemer said. "We want the riders and the participants from all over the state to know how happy we are in our community and we want them to feel welcome."
Members of the Covington-Conyers Cycling Club (C4), led by President Maurice Carter are busy planning events for children to participate in on Saturday, before the riders head out on their week-long ride.
In April, Carter and the Covington Police Department held their inaugural Bike Fest with the help of Bea Jackson at the Washington Street Community Center. Children learned about bicycle safety while enjoying a day's worth of activities.
Carter said he hopes to translate that success into the B.R.A.G. event as a bike parade for children is scheduled on Saturday at 6 p.m.
"We actually looked into doing a parade during Bike Fest but with the logistics and the availability of the police, we weren't able to do that," Carter said. "We told the kids we would do it during the B.R.A.G. weekend and Bea (Jackson) said the kids have been looking forward to it ever since."
With the help of Conte's bicycle shop in Conyers, Bike Fest volunteers gave away 25 bikes, 50 new helmets and 50 safety lights to the children who attended. The children also learned about bike safety and had their bikes tuned up. Carter wants to keep involving the children and has even extended an invitation to Project Adventure Kids.
Lisa Ciancio has confirmed that between 10-15 riders from teamAdventure, Project Adventure's cycling club, will attend and make the ride from the center to the square in Covington. In addition, teamAdventure plans to participate in the Covington Century bike ride on August 2.
"They've got a coach that is going to work with them and they have been working on their bikes to get ready," Carter said. "In fact, they'll have a highly respected coach working with them that morning before the parade, preparing them for the ride."
Carter said the B.R.A.G. Dream Team, a group of children from various parts of the state will also participate in the parade. The Dream Team will also participate in Sunday's ride and Carter said the riders who complete the ride will get to keep the borrowed bikes.
There will be plenty of activities on the square as well. Mayor Kim Carter plans to ride along with the children and will speak in the square after the parade arrives. After the mayor speaks, there will be a bike decorating contest in the followed by a free concert.
"We'll have the Statesboro Blues Band performing in the evening and we're excited about that," Kelly said. "We've had them perform before and they're one of our favorite bands that have played down on the square."
There will be refreshments including watermelon, ice cream and water for those who need something to help with the heat.
Carter says he is pleased with the community's involvement and hopes to continue raising awareness for bicycle safety. He is especially hopeful that children will continue to attend bicycle events.
Children wishing to participate must arrive at the Washington Street Community Center at 5 p.m. and police will escort the riders to the square starting around 6 p.m.
The parade is open for anyone who would like to participate and Carter encourages more than just bike riders to attend.
The three community leaders also hope the community will come out on Sunday morning to send off the riders participating in the B.R.A.G as they ride through downtown Covington on their way to Griffin.
"My goal is to get a large turnout and get the community involved and show the B.R.A.G. representatives we are involved, "Carter said. "I encourage everyone to come out for the Saturday and Sunday and enjoy the festivities."
Carter says each spot B.R.A.G visits sees a large economic infusion which he estimates can reach upwards of $100,000.
Several businesses throughout the community have come forward with support including Long Horn Steakhouse, Newton County Recreation Commission, Holiday Inn Express, Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce - Tourism Division, Main Street Covington, Washington Street Community Center, Mayfield Hardware, BB&T, Sam's Club of Stonecrest, Bank of North Georgia and Wheeler Funeral Home.
Riders will leave from Oxford College Sunday morning and make their way into Covington before heading south on Washington Street to Porterdale.
This is the fifth time the B.R.A.G. event has been in Newton County but the first in the past 10 years. While Covington has changed and the county has grown since the last visit, Deemer feels this is an opportunity to showcase the community.
"We really want to make Covington a hub for cycling and we hope this instills interest," Deemer said. "We just want the community to know how much we appreciate their involvement and how they support cycling.