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Greater Cincinnati's never seen a festival like Broken Spoke

Combining bike racing with local music, art, food
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Posted at 12:00 PM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-19 22:39:45-04

BURLINGTON, Ky. -- In the passenger seat of his Toyota FJ Cruiser, Dave Huff carries a wide array of equipment, tools, paint (and paint splatters) -- all symbols of what he, just a year ago, decided to make his life's work.

"The life of a park builder," he joked as he showed off what he calls his "gas guzzler," the Hummer-like utility vehicle he drives around when he's not on two wheels.

Huff is the executive director of the Covington-based nonprofit Riding Forward, that offers two-wheeled sports as an outlet for growth and learning for local young people. Beyond building bike parks, Huff and his team regularly work on other enrichment efforts for area kids, including a close partnership with the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, which teaches kids engineering and mechanics by learning how to build a bicycle.

READ MORE: New N. Ky. bike park about more than just riding bikes

He and his team of volunteers are responsible for planning and building the region's only pump track bike park -- that is, a park consisting of several types of dirt tracks for BMX and other types of off-road cycling -- at England-Idlewild Park in Burlington.

Here's a first-person look at the park's beginner pump track, shot in May 2015, not long after the track was completed:

 

Not only is it the first bike park of its kind in the area, but, nearly a year after its opening, it's about to host a festival like the area has never seen.

Broken Spoke Fest 2016, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the park, is Huff's latest brainchild -- a fusion of bicycle racing with local music, art and food. It also will serve as Riding Forward's annual fundraiser.

Hitting all the right speeds

"Trying to learn them all -- the art, the bikes, all of it -- it’s an undertaking," Huff said.

It’s an undertaking worth taking on, Huff said, because this festival is not just about racing or music or art, but about building a community.

"The Cincinnati cycling community is diverse," Huff said. "But it’s also divided," meaning that the various types of cyclists out there -- road racers, mountain bikers, BMXers, cyclocross -- they’re all here, but they don’t mingle much.

Huff hopes Broken Spoke could be a step toward changing that, by making the festival about more than just BMX or mountain bike racing -- and about more than just cycling in general for that matter.

"We initially were going to invite some national bands, but decided to stick with all local," Huff said. "It's an important part of the community aspect of the festival."

Broken Spoke Fest 2016 Music Lineup

Saturday
Friday Giants
The Mighty
Undertipper
Alone at 3AM
500 Miles to Memphis

Sunday
Banjo Murnan
Wonky Tonk
Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound
Young Heirlooms

Local artists will also be on site both showing their work and, for some, offering interactive art pieces. Bones Brother Wings and Andy Kabobske food trucks will be on site, as well as Deeper Roots brew coffee.

Community comes up a lot with Huff, himself a cyclist, mostly because it sits at the center of his most meaningful riding experiences.

"All of the cities where I've had unforgettable cycling experiences have been where they've broken down those barriers," Huff said. "We're a cycling family. We might have different types of bikes, but we all still like to ride."

And while this festival is about bringing cyclists together, Huff said it's just as much about rallying a larger community around cycling, and normalizing the activity and the park in the eyes of the non-cycling public.

"I'm hoping the festival will introduce people to the park, and make people more used to the idea," Huff said when reflecting on the area's relative lack of familiarity with this type of bike park.

"I want the festival to have folks who were pumped to be there, and people who find out they're bummed to have missed it," he said.

Building momentum

The festival doesn't just serve as the nonprofit's annual fundraiser, but it also paves the way for the park's one-year anniversary. It's been a year that Huff said has seen the park hit high gear quickly.

"I could tell as I was building this park, more and more families were coming down. People were driving from all over," Huff said. "The only complaint we've really gotten since the park opened has been from parents, who can't drag their kids away."

Then there are those parents who enjoy the park right alongside their kids, Huff said: parents like Dan Beckerich, of Hebron, whose two older sons followed in his footsteps and both ride BMX -- short for bicycle motocross -- competitively. Previously, they had to drive to Cleves, Ohio, to ride. Now, they're minutes away.

"We've been waiting for something to come around here," said Dan's wife, Katie. "To put this park together for these kids is just an amazing thing."

Jackie Heyenbruch, spokeswoman for Boone County Parks & Recreation, will vouch for the park's success just in its first year. 

"It has brought together a lot of our community," Heyenbruch told WCPO, "a whole new group of people."

Heyenbruch said her department, which partnered closely with Riding Forward from the park's conception, wanted to give the region something it's never seen before.

"We did this so that we could offer the community something completely different than we have. It's a totally different thing for us," she said. "This is so fun. On sunny days, you can see kids out their with their parents, cyclists out practicing.

"It's a highly populated area."

Breaking the mold, making a model

Heyenbruch said she and a number of her colleagues didn't even know what a pump track was before they met Huff.

"It's a totally different thing for us. We're learning about it," she said.

And if Huff has anything to say about it, she and her department won't be the last to learn. "There are a lot of leaders who don't know what a pump track is," he said.

To that end, not only has Huff visited with leaders in other communities, but he's also invited a number of local leaders from both Northern Kentucky and Ohio to this weekend's festival, so they can see for themselves.

In fact, some are already catching on. Not long after beginning work on the England-Idlewild project, Huff was approached about doing something similar in the Louisville area. 

Perhaps what makes Huff's approach so unique is that he looks at the park as just the first step. 

"Some developers come in and build a park and leave. What do you have then? An empty park," Huff said. "Coming in and building a park is one thing. But if you're going to build a bike park, you better be spending one day a week at nearby schools, giving workshops, demonstrations -- showing the kids how fun this can be.

For Huff, it's all a bit surreal. And as if approaching the park's one-year anniversary wasn't enough, the festival will land, nearly to the day, one-year after Huff quit his job working for a fiber optics firm to commit to the Riding Forward full time.

It doesn't seem like he'll be looking back anytime soon.

Broken Spoke Fest 2016

What: Bicycle race/music, art, food festival
Where: England-Idlewild Park, 5550 Idlewild Road, Burlington, Ky.
When: Saturday, Aug. 20-Sunday, Aug. 21
Cost: Free entry, registration fee for cyclists

Interested cyclists can register here until Saturday.