Stellar feedback for NRAO bicycle festival

Green Bank, W.Va. – The National Radio Astronomy Observatory hosted the Space Race Rumpus bicycling event over the weekend. The event included races, guided rides, cycling clinics, live music, vendors, star parties and campouts. Cyclists from as far away as Indiana and Florida and many family members and visitors attended. Proceeds from the event, exceeding $2,000, will benefit the Green Bank wellness center project.

As the event wrapped up on Sunday, NRAO educational coordinator Sue Ann Heatherly says the event went well.

“It went great,” she said. “Everybody was extraordinarily happy. People took rides, everywhere from 10 or 15 miles, throughout our gorgeous county, to 35 and 60 miles long. We gave rides throughout our trails here in the site. One of our engineers kind of spearheaded the creation of mountain bike trails all over this beautiful observatory site. So, people had a blast.”

NRAO employee Traci Samples, who conceived the idea for a cycling event at Green Bank, says the wellness center idea sprang up about the same time.

“The wellness center thing happened about the same time,” she said. “So, the employees, really, at Green Bank, kind of came up with this idea and, really, it’s the employees who have put on the show, pretty much as a volunteer. They’ve done things on the evenings and on the weekends and done things on their own times and really put it all together. Really, the entire force – the volunteer force – was made up of Green Bank employees.”

Sid Gillespie, of Elkins, was finishing up a 68-mile ride through Pocahontas County on Sunday.

“Fantastic – everyone was having fun,” he said. “Kids were out biking. Fantastic music – Steel Wheels played yesterday and they were fantastic. I recommend everyone to come out for this. It’s for everybody and what a beautiful area. Unbelievable – it’s gorgeous.”

NRAO employee Sarah Scoles did a lot of the event planning.

“First of all, we had to chose all the routes that we wanted to do and decide who we were gearing them towards,” she said. “We wanted this to be a family event, so, we had to have a lot of different kinds of rides and a lot of different kinds of ride leaders and kids activities. So, sorting all that out was a task. Then, you know, raising money for advertising, getting grants. Just getting the word out is hard for a first-year event. So, we were trying to get a big geographical reach because we wanted people from outside of here.”

NRAO engineer Michael Stennis was finishing up a ride, too.

“I understand that there were over 100 registered participants, this year,” he said. “That is a very large number for a first-year event. Of course, the weather cooperated. We had beautiful weather this weekend. The bike courses were laid out very well – organized very well. The instructors were knowledgeable and friendly. I saw a lot of people smiling, which is nice, and not only activities for the grown-ups. They had children’s activities, non-stop, through the whole weekend.”

Award-winning Americana band Steel Wheels performed Saturday night. Steel Wheels bass player Brian Dickel said the band was on the road again – in more ways than one.

“The whole band did a 36-miles yesterday and that was a beautiful ride,” he said. “We like to get out on the road, whenever we can. I did a 58-miler today and, yeah, absolutely gorgeous weather, gorgeous roads – perfect.”

Organizers says they plan to make the Space race Rumpus and annual event.

Gillespie says he’ll be back next year.

“No question – I’ll bring my family next year, too,” he said. “So, I definitely recommend people to come out to it. There’s all kinds of activities, concerts, physical activities and everything else, too. So, definitely planning for it next year.”

Everyone in the listening area can help raise money for the Green Bank wellness center project. Go to and click on the front page link to vote for the Space Race Rumpus in the Clifbar Challenge. The Rumpus could win an additional $1,000 if it wins the vote, which ends on June 25.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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