|Tunica is hosting its third annual Rivergate Festival Ride on|
April 16, 2016. The route this year will be similar to the
previous ones with the exception of a minor change to
the longer, 42-mile, Tour de Blues.
Within the Mississippi Delta, and set against an idyllic rural and agricultural setting, is the small town of Tunica, Mississippi.
The town, like so many other Northern Mississippi towns, is an inviting and welcoming place filled with everything that makes small town living great. That includes a southern charm and hospitality that makes you always want to come back for more.
Tunica, which is about 38 miles south of Memphis, is often only associated with its nearby casinos, but for those who live there, or who have been there, all know that the town really has a lot more to offer its visitors, especially those who come to ride their bikes.
Once a year, cyclists have an opportunity to ride one of the area's bike trails when the town hosts its annual Tunica Rivergate Festival.
This year’s festival will take place April 14 - 16, 2016.
“The Tunica Rivergate Festival is an annual event held in downtown Tunica each year since 1993,” the president and CEO of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, Webster Franklin said.
The idea to include a 13 or a 42-mile bike ride as part of the festival is something that is relatively new and this year it will be on Saturday, April 16.
“The inaugural Rivergate Ride originally took place in 2014…. and this will be the third year for it,” Franklin said.
The Tunica Bike Club, led by their president, Patrick Johnson, is responsible for this year’s Rivergate Ride and its route.
Click on this link for a brochure with a map of the bike trails for the Rivergate Ride.
Of the two routes that cyclists can chose from, the shorter 13-mile “Tour de River” is ideal for all ages and skill levels. This route loops around from the historic downtown area to a place known as Mhoon Landing on the Mississippi River and back.
The longer, 42-mile “Tour de Blues” route is a little more challenging ride that travels along Mississippi Delta roads and part of what is known as the Great River Road Scenic Byway. Throughout the ride cyclists will ride past some of the area’s cultural landmarks that gave this trail its nickname of Blues Alley.
|Tunica is a place where cycling is becoming even more|
popular. With events like the Rivergate Festival bike
ride and the creation of a local bike club in town,
the popularity of cycling is expected to grow in
the years ahead.
“All riders this year will start together at the Town Hall in downtown Tunica at 8:00 a.m. and they will ride the entire Tour de River route that features the Mississippi River at Mhoon Landing Park,” Franklin said.
“The riders will have the option of crossing the Mississippi River Levee, and getting a scenic view of the Mississippi River, or turning just before the levee crossing and continuing along the route,” he said.
“The Tour de River route will conclude in downtown Tunica with the Tour de Blues continuing south around Beaver Dam Lake. There will be a SAG stop in downtown where those riding the Tour de River will complete their ride and those continuing on the Tour de Blues route can stop before resuming the rest of their ride. An additional SAG stop will be offered at the 25-mile marker,” he added.
Other than the minor route change to the 42-mile route, cyclists who have done the ride before can expect the same type of ride and festival atmosphere that they experienced during last year’s event.
Registration for this year’s ride begins at 7:00 a.m. at the Town Hall at 909 River Road and the ride begins at 8:00 a.m.
Online registration can be found at https://www.racesonline.com/events/tunica-tour-de-blues and the cost is $25 until April 15. On the day of the ride it will increase to $30.
Every cyclist will receive a welcome bag upon check-in, which will include the official Tour de Blues t-shirt and various other items. The t-shirt is a part of the registration fee.
Law enforcement will be stationed at all of the major intersections along the way.
After the ride, cyclists will have the chance to enjoy some food, fun, and beverages at the Rivergate Festival in Downtown Tunica. For Franklin, one of the best parts of the ride is that it is a part of a bigger Rivergate Festival experience.
The festival offers the chance to take in some live entertainment all day, with family and children’s activities, and all the beer and crawfish you could possibly want.
Last year’s ride had a total of 85 cyclists, with 30 who did the 13-mile ride and 55 who opted for the longer, 42-mile, ride.
Franklin credits Lynn Ryals, who is the former Executive Director of Tunica Main Street, for initially organizing the ride.
“Under her leadership, Tunica Main Street developed the Tunica County Bike trail that links DeSoto County to Tunica County. The trail is marked with road signs and a brochure has been developed by Main Street in an effort to promote the trail,” Franklin said.
The official opening of the bike trail took place in March 2013. This was a 13 mile ride from downtown Tunica to the Mississippi River at Mhoon Landing and back.
“Cycling in Tunica is still relatively new, but we have grown from just a few true road cyclists to over a dozen and the formation of our very own Tunica Bike Club,” Franklin said.
“Tunica’s Bike Club was established in 2014 and its headquarters is located just south of the Tunica Town Hall on Edwards Ave. The club has assumed responsibility of organizing the ride and its members and their spouses look forward to welcoming all cycling enthusiasts to Tunica for a great ride. They invite all riders to stop by and they will be more than happy to answer any questions about the ride or the activities taking place over the weekend,” he said.
The Tour de River and the Tour de Blues are part of the larger Tunica Rivergate Festival activities, according to Franklin.
“This year marks the 20th anniversary of one of the festivals main attractions – Crawfish Alley. The Rivergate Festival, itself, actually begins on Thursday, April 14 and continues through Saturday afternoon, April 16, with entertainment, food, and family activities. We invite all participants in the ride to bring their family for a full day of fun in downtown Tunica,” Franklin said.
Cyclists, who have not already experienced it before, can learn firsthand of the Tunica small town charm and hospitality during the ride and at the Rivergate festivities afterwards.
Those looking to learn even more about the town and the local area can visit one of the three museums in Tunica County – the Tunica Museum, the Tunica River Park, and the Gateway to the Blues Visitor Center and Museum. Information on all of these attractions can be found at: www.tunicatravel.com.