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Monday, September 26, 2016

2016 St. Jude Bike Ride is a unique and fun way to help the kids at St. Jude

2016 St. Jude Bike Ride is a unique and fun way to help the kids at St. Jude
By:  Michael Lander

The 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride will be a fun and unique way to
support the kids at St. Jude.  This year's ride will begin two
hours earlier than before (at 4:00 p.m.) and it will offer
participants, and/or their teams, with the opportunity to
either ride for 6 hours on Friday and/or Saturday or for
24 hours, if they wish.

If you love to ride a bike, and you’re looking for a unique and fun way to support the children at
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, you will not find a better way to do both than at the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride.

You, and hundreds of other cyclists, can participate in a one-of-a-kind bicycle event on two autumn days, (one 24-hour period), along the
Mississippi River, at Riverside Drive and Tom Lee Park in downtown Memphis, that will begin at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 21 and end 24 hours later on Saturday, Oct 22.

Click on this link to register for the 2016 event:

“Everyone who signs up for the St. Jude ride can either ride solo or they can be on a team of two, six, or 12 people,”
Lee Bobo said.

Hundreds of cyclists participate in the St. Jude Bike Ride each
year.  They can either ride solo or on a 2, 6, or 12 person team
for this annual fundraising event for St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital.  (Photo:  Courtesy of St. Jude)

Bobo is the event director for the St. Jude team relay bike ride, a role that she has now held for three years.

“Beginning this year, we are not only offering individuals and/or their teams with a challenge of riding for 24-hours, but they can now also chose to do one of two 6-hour rides that begin at 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. on the 21st and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on the 22nd,” Bobo said.

There are no limits on how teams are formed except that they are limited to a maximum number of 12 people.  They can be made up of friends, families, co-workers, members of various clubs or other organizations, or a combination of all these and more.

Adam Cruthirds was the team captain for Adam's
Army in 2015 and he will have a team again for
the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride.  In 2015, he spoke
to participants before the start of the St. Jude
Ride about his battle with cancer and the
life-saving treatment and support that he and
others like him have received at St. Jude.

The upcoming 2016 team relay bike ride will be the fifth of its kind hosted by St. Jude, and it’s something that Bobo is very much looking forward to and is excited about.  More than anything, she finds the whole experience of this event as something that is extremely fun and rewarding.

“The most rewarding part for me is seeing so many groups of people coming together for this one mission,” Bobo said.

That mission for Bobo is an enormous undertaking, but the payoff is huge since the money that is raised goes toward research and treatment.  It can offer hope for children and their families when they are confronted by one of the most difficult and challenging circumstances that they could ever face.

Participants get some announcements and instructions before the
ceremonial lap commences and the St. Jude Ride officially
begins.  The event continues to grow in number and St. Jude is
hoping to have at least 400 sign up for this year's ride.

The St. Jude Ride started in 2010 by
Ann Leatherman who wanted to do it in appreciation of St. Jude and in honor of her daughter, Eliza.  Eliza was a St. Jude patient who successfully won her battle against a life-threatening disease.

"The first year, it was a
century ride that was called the 'St. Jude Give Thanks, Ride,' and the first committee was made up of mothers, aunts, and relatives of patients who wanted to give back to St. Jude,” Bobo said.

“The event was so successful that it became an annual event.  The next year, (in 2011), St. Jude decided to change it to the 24-hour model to make it a unique event special to Memphis,” she added.

Since the St. Jude Ride was moved from late September to late
October in 2015, there is a little less sunlight, but the
temperatures are generally cooler with less humidity.  Sunset
for the first day of the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride (on Oct. 21)
will be at 6:16 p.m.  (Photo:  Courtesy of St. Jude)

Since they made that change, the event has grown from 186 cyclists in the first year in 2011, to 280 cyclists in 2012, to 305 in 2014, to 325 in 2015, and Bobo said that the goal now is to have at least 400 participants in 2016.

Currently, there are 34 teams and quite a few solo riders who have registered for this year’s ride and the current total number of those who have signed up, thus far, is 185 individuals, according to Bobo.

Like last year, Bobo and her 10-person committee have worked to further encourage a more festival-type atmosphere, which she hopes will attract more spectators and enable them to enjoy the event and cheer on the cyclists as they do their ride.

Many cyclists, like these from the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride,
rode throughout the night and were not deterred by the
intermittent, light rain showers.

To further facilitate this, they will seek to make accommodations that will entice people to come out, which will include a way for them to purchase a wrist band that will allow them to eat at the hospitality tent.

With the exception of adding two shorter 6-hour rides, and moving the event from late September to late October, Bobo said that cyclists will find much of what they have known will remain the same for this upcoming ride in the fall.

The ride will remain a team relay event, which means that only one person on a team can ride at any given time over the 24 hours that it takes place.  Team members can decide for themselves when they want to ride and they can switch off as they wish.

Many participants of the St. Jude Bike Ride often chose to
spend the night in Tom Lee Park where they are treated to
a nice view of the Memphis skyline and the Mississippi

As in previous rides, cyclists will be required to wear a helmet and they must have a headlight and tail light on their bicycles, which must be turned on from dusk until dawn.

When they aren’t riding, cyclists can hang out and eat with their friends and/or family, in Tom Lee Park, and listen to live musical performances late Friday night and throughout most of the day on Saturday.

Cyclists can check out the
River Art Festival on South Main Street that will be taking place the same weekend as the St. Jude Bike Ride.  They can also ride over to the opening ceremony of the Harahan Bridge, which will take place at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22.

This photo from the 2015 St. Jude Bike Ride is a daytime view
of tent city with the Memphis skyline in the background.

After the ride, teams will be recognized and will receive awards for the most money raised as well as those on the solo, two-person, and larger teams who complete the most number of laps on the 3-mile loop of Riverside Drive.

Tracking is done with timing chips that each cyclists must have on their helmets.

Long before cyclists ever show up for the ride, Bobo and many others behind the scenes spend countless hours planning and preparing for an event of this magnitude.  These efforts begin immediately after the current year’s event is over.

“It takes a full year to plan, execute, promote, and work with all of our participants who sign up,” Bobo said.

The St. Jude Bike Ride is a fun-filled, family-friendly event
and many who do the ride bring their families along with
them.  The threat of rain during the 2015 ride did little to
dampen the spirits or interfere with the ride or stop any
children from playing and enjoying themselves.

“I have a wonderful committee of 10 people…. And we have about 40 volunteers who come out and help from setting up, taking down, and everything in between.  It is a huge production to put together a 24-hour event like this and we appreciate all the help we can get to make it happen,” she added.

“We can’t have enough volunteers and we gladly welcome anyone who would be willing to come out and support us at any time during this event,” Bobo said.

For those who might be interested in volunteering, they can contact Lee Bobo at and she will send them the sign up information.

No one hosts an event better than St. Jude.  Cyclists and
volunteers for the St. Jude Bike Ride are treated to
live performances, food, and drink throughout most of
the event with the music beginning Friday evening and
picking back up late Saturday morning.

The St. Jude Ride relies heavily on the help of its volunteers, and the hospital itself relies on the generosity of those who are willing to give.  Because of them, St. Jude is able to continue to provide the care and treatment to critically ill children, which it is able to provide at no cost to their families.

The hospital was
founded in 1962 by Danny Thomas and it was his vision that no child will ever be denied treatment at St. Jude based on race, religion, or a family’s inability to pay, but the only way to make that possible is through the fundraising efforts and the 24-hour bike ride is one of those ways.

The 2014 ride raised $140,000 and $210,000 was raised in 2015.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep can be a big challenge
for some, unless you are like Chris Sheffield who was able
to catch a little shut-eye in between one of his turns to
ride for the Gray Falcons team in 2015.

There may be no better way to have fun with friends, family, and fellow cyclists than to participate in a bike ride that helps the children of St. Jude and their families.

Even though the cyclists who participate in this event are of different ages, skills, and abilities, they all share one thing in common and that is their support of St. Jude and its lifesaving work on behalf of the children who receive treatment there.

If you love to ride a bike, and you’re looking for a unique, challenging, and fun-filled way to support St. Jude, you will not find a better way to do it than at the 2016 St. Jude Bike Ride.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bicycle rides can help you live your faith and help change the world

Bicycle rides can help you live your faith and help change the world
By:  Michael Lander

There may not be an obvious connection to cycling and to faith,
but one would not need to look very hard to find numerous
ways in which there could be.  This photo is of the Abbey of
Gethsemani near New Haven, KY, which is about 350 miles
northeast of Memphis.  This monastery is a good location for
riding and for a faith-filled spiritual and religious retreat

Most of us have heard about taking a
leap of faith or taking a walk of faith, but sometimes, the living of one’s faith can come in many different and unique ways.  For some, it can even be found on two wheels.

Whether or not we think of ourselves as being a person of faith, we still have many times in our lives when we find ourselves placing our trust and our faith in someone or something else.  It would be virtually impossible to go through life without doing that.

It is only natural, then, that we would put our trust and faith in something much greater than ourselves that gives some meaning and purpose to our very existence and we find that when we turn to the divine – or in other words – to

Cycling, like faith, can be a test of endurance and perseverance
and both can be an extremely rewarding and meaningful
experience, especially if one contributes toward the other.

So, you might ask, how can one express or demonstrate their faith on a bicycle?

The answer, it would seem, is quite simple.

Cycling affords many opportunities for a cyclist to experience their faith, to share their faith, and to live their faith and the bicycle, itself, can provide the modus operandi in order to do just that.

Just about everybody recognizes the health benefits of cycling and even the therapeutic benefits of it as well.  There is also a social, recreational, practical (utilitarian), and a competitive aspect of cycling, too.

Many people of faith, like Brother Matthew at the Abbey of
Gethsemani, can appreciate the true pleasure of riding a bike
and the usefulness of it in his work and service as a
Trappist Monk.
Even though many might not think about, faith can be as much a part of one’s cycling experience as any of these other things are. 

The application of faith can, arguably, be done at any time or any place, but there are some things that seem to lend themselves more to it than others and cycling is one of them.  

In our busy and hectic lives, a cyclist will often find, when riding, that a bike ride can provide them with an opportunity to escape from the many distractions of life and it can provide them with an opportunity for solitude, reflection, and prayers that they might not, otherwise, have time for.
Charitable fundraising events like the St. Jude Bike Ride in
Memphis, provide an opportunity for cyclists to
demonstrate and to live out their faith by raising money
and awareness for causes that benefit others.
Cycling can also give a person a chance to ride not only for themselves, but in a such a way that it will benefit others, giving them the means in which they can actively demonstrate or express their faith.

One of the best ways that someone can begin to do this is by participating in charitable fundraising events of which there are many that take place each year in

Click here to see a list of charitable fundraising events in our river city:

In addition to the charity-related bike rides, there are also other rides, like the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry (UBFM) outreach ministry at First Church United Methodist in downtown Memphis, in which cyclists can participate.
There are many ways in which bicycles can be used to
assist people of faith in helping others.  Mike Rouse, of the
Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, gives some last minute
instructions to cyclists before they out with food to give
to the homeless and hungry in downtown Memphis.
UBFM helps to feed the homeless and hungry in our city and it offers people of faith to reach out their hands and open their hearts to do God’s work in our community and it’s all done on a bicycle.

Click here to read more about the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry in Memphis:

Some churches, like First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young neighborhood have also created an innovative and unique bicycling ministry, known as Revolutions Co-op, which offers a healthy, environmentally-friendly, and an alternative (and cheaper) mode of transportation for Memphis area residents.

Click here to read about First Congregational Church’s Revolution Co-op:

Bicycles can, and have also been used, by missionaries or other people of faith who may sometimes find themselves in remote and isolated areas, or by those who have limited financial means for transportation.

The Revolutions Co-op at First Congregational Church is
one of the most innovative church ministries that focuses
on meeting the needs of our Memphis area communities
with bicycles.  Its director, Sylvia Crum, is pictured in
the front with a group of others, to include her husband,
Teddy, behind her.

In these instances, the bicycle can be the best and most intimate way that can enable them to connect with people and to spread and share their faith.

In this way, bicycles can essentially become instruments that can lead people to a life of faith and service to others.

Click here to read more about how bicycles can lead some down the road of faith:

There are yet other ways where bicycles can be used by people of faith to do some good in this world that is often so hungry for it. 

A popular non-profit bicycle club in Memphis, known as the
Memphis Hightailers, is one group that not only sponsors and participates in charity-related bicycle events, but they are also establishing a ride that will enable those who are visually impaired to experience the joy and freedom that can come from a simple bicycle ride.

Bicycles can be used for so many purposes and they can also
be a tool that can unify people and communities with one
another.  Livable Memphis Program Director, John Paul
Shaffer, is leading a group of cyclists during a Bikes on
Broad event that took place once a month from April to
November 2015.

In these and other ways that bicycles can be used in performing faith-based works, there are also things that bicycles can do for our communities at large.

Bicycles can help unify our communities and bring people together where we are not separated by barriers, fences or walls.  A bicycle can give us an opportunity to meet one another in places where we can learn to get to know and appreciate one another. 

Whether it is on the roads, trails, or in public parks, a bicycle can take us to places where people often come from communities from around Memphis.  Knowing this, people of faith can take advantage of this, if they wish to reach out to others.

Memphis has had an explosion of bike lanes, trails, and
improved public parks, like Shelby Farms.  All of these
places provide the perfect setting for people to not
only enjoy and appreciate what we have in the
Memphis area, but through faith, they can be
places that bring us together and to unify us.

The bicycle can take us from a world where we may be segregated and divided and bring us to places where we have a chance to meet, to talk, and to see each other as fellow travelers in this world and this can all start by the simple act of riding a bicycle.

As people of faith, we should seek to dismantle that which obstructs and divides us and bicycles can be one way to help to unify our communities by bringing people together. 

To read more about how bicycling can break down barriers, click on this story:

As much as bicycling can be an outward expression of one’s faith, it can also help the body and soul of those who do it.

Cycling is one of the best physical activities that most
everyone can do.  Staying active and healthy can allow
people of faith to better accomplish the work of
helping others and sharing their faith.

It is the body, especially, that can benefit from riding a bike and people of faith should not ignore the value of their own health.  It is only from taking care of our bodies that any of us are better able to carry out the work and mission of sharing our faith with others. 

Click here to read more about the health benefits of cycling:

Many Christians know the story of the good Samaritan and all cyclists, whether they are people of faith or not, should always be ready, willing, and able to assist those in need.

We should all take the time to learn some first aid techniques, (what to do for broken bones, bleeding,
CPR, etc.).  This is a skillset that is invaluable, whenever you or someone else might need it.

Cycling offers one of the best ways to take in some scenery,
but like everything else in life, there are some risks of
injury when cycling so cyclists should learn what they
can to treat injuries and to be good Samaritans for those
in need.

You can find a lot about first aid and CPR by reading or watching videos on the Internet or by taking classes, which may be offered by the American Red Cross or others. 

Whenever possible, we should always be willing to render any assistance, especially to those who require immediate medical attention. 

The day might come when you will need someone to help you and Good Samaritan Laws in most states will protect you for any actions that you take to help anyone in distress. 

Here are links for Good Samaritan Laws in Tennessee:
, Mississippi:

It is not uncommon to find cyclists stopping and offering
assistance to other cyclists and it is something that people
of faith can and should do whether they are on a bike or
not.  Michael Wener, on the left, stopped and offered
his help to a fellow cyclist during a fundraising
cycling event for the National MS Society on
September 10, 2016.  (Photo:  Courtesy of
Tim Wheat)

If you are a person of faith, a bicycle will not only be something that can help you to improve your own life and your own health, but it has the potential to do so much more and to even change the world for the better. 

You need only to open your mind to its potential and let your faith take you from there.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

There are plenty of things for Memphians to be proud of and to love about the newly improved Shelby Farms Park

There are plenty of things for Memphians to be proud of and to love about the newly improved Shelby Farms Park
By:  Michael Lander

The opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Heart of the
Park at Shelby Farms took place on September 1, 2016.  It
was attended by local dignitaries that included Shelby
County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Shelby Farms Board
Member and Hyde Family Foundation Chair Barbara Hyde.

One of the best urban parks in the U.S. just got even better.

Memphis’ very own – Shelby Farms Park - just received a $52 million facelift and celebrated what was the culmination of a 15-year effort with an official opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 1, 2016.

The latest and final renovation of the park, was a $52 million Heart of the Park project that took six years and was part of a 15-year, $70 million investment in improvements that were made in the 4,500 acre park.

Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC) Executive Director
Jen Andrews greeted an audience of several hundred who
came for the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the
Heart of the Park.  Andrews assumed the position of the
SFPC Executive Director after Laura Morris retired.

Over the last six years, the roughly 50-acre Patriot Lake was completely reshaped and enlarged to 80-acres and was then renamed in honor of the Hyde family because of their generosity, which included a $25 million donation toward the park improvements through their Hyde Family Foundation.

Other work included the planting of thousands of trees, the construction of a new visitor center, a lakeside events center that houses a restaurant, as well as such amenities as an events stage, splash park, a wetland area, a boat house, a promenade, and a bike rental facility.

Barbara Hyde has served in a dual role with the Shelby Farms
Conservancy and the Hyde Family Foundation.  Hyde said
that she and her family were humbled and honored that the
lake in the Heart of the Park had been renamed from
Patriot to Hyde Lake.

As long and as painful as the process might have been for some who were involved in it, the work on the park could also be described as a labor of love.

“It sounds easy to say this now, but I must admit, that this experience has been a lot like childbirth.  It’s easy now to forget about the hard labor when we see and can embrace this beautiful baby,” Barbara Hyde said.

Hyde is a Shelby Farms Board Member and the chair for the Hyde Family Foundation.

The First Tennessee Foundation Visitor Center was the location
of the opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Heart of
the Park.  The building has a large overhang for visitors to
relax and to sit in the shade with large fans overhead to
keep them cool in the Memphis heat.

“It was a little hard at times throughout the years when it just looked like dirt was being pushed around, but seeing it now, it was worth the wait,” Jen Andrews said.

Andrews is the Shelby Farms Park Executive Director.

“Some people said we couldn’t do this, but we did,” Andrews said.

Hyde attributes the success of this to people coming forward and coming together to make it happen.

“Because people stepped up, this has made the Heart of the Park possible,” Hyde said.

The FedEx Event Center is located at the eastern edge of
Hyde Lake and it has The Kitchen Bistro on the Southern
end of it for visitors to stop by and grab a bite to eat.

A common refrain by many of the speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was the fact that it took teamwork, and this often meant a private and public partnership that made it all come together.  

The park itself is owned by Shelby County, but it is managed by the private, nonprofit Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (SFPC).

Most of the money that was raised during the $70 million capital funds campaign came from private sources.  The only public funds came from a $1.6 million grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), $5 million in other state money, $3 million from Shelby County, and $150,000 from the City of Memphis.  Corporate sponsorships, foundation grants, and smaller individual donations provided the rest of it.

The event stage is located on the northern portion, and toward
the center, of Hyde Lake.  It offers a place where visitors
can gather for music and entertainment while sitting out on
the grass in front of it.

Throughout the entire multi-year process, Shelby Farms Park was able to keep everything on this project within budget.

“We accomplished this on time and under budget,” SFPC Executive Director, Todd Grimes, said.

With the brand new facilities now to take care of, the conservancy’s operating budget has risen from $2.6 million in fiscal 2015 to $3.5 million this year, with the costs expected to inevitably level out at around $4.5 million a year.

The conservancy currently receives about $575,000 a year from the Shelby County Commission.  After that, it must generate the rest through fundraising events and donations and revenue sources, which includes rentals and the leasing of their facilities.

A water play sprayground is near Hyde Lake and just down the
hill from the First Tennessee Foundation Visitor Center.
The conservancy, according to Andrews, has a business plan and it has accumulated enough funds to cover their expenses for the first few years, and that should be enough until the park is able to generate a sufficient amount of revenues following that.

With all of the work that has been done, there are many who believe that Memphis now has something that we all can be extremely proud of.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter for Memphis with new opportunities….. and it is appropriate that this is being done on 9-01.  This will also change how we think of parks, and it will be a major landmark in our city,” Hyde said.

Cycling is a great way to get around Shelby Farms Park.  Behind
these cyclists is one of two picnic areas in the Heart of the Park.

Hyde and many others also believe that the newly renovated Shelby Farms Park will also be something that others people will admire and wish for in their own cities.

“The park now is unfolding and more natural with an undulating landscape that draws visitors around and toward it.  The buildings, together with the landscape, will help to redefine the reputation of Memphis,” Corner said. 

James Corner is the founder and director of the New York-based landscape and urban design firm that drafted the park master plan.

The changes to the lake and to the landscape in the Heart of the
Park is much more aesthetically-pleasing to the eye than what
it was only two years ago and the area offers so much more to
visitors than it ever did before.

“Shelby Farms is one of the largest city parks in the world and many times larger than other city parks like Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London.  It could become as well renowned as them, too and, with its size, there should be something for everybody,” Corner said. 

“Shelby Farms significantly enriches the culture of Memphis…. and it should help to improve the public health and fitness and bring a wonderful quality of life that will be the envy of others,” he added. 

Shelby Farms Park volunteer, Steve O’Dell also sees other benefits of the changes to the park as well.

There are two paved trails around Hyde Lake.  The 2.4 mile outer
loop is intended for cyclists and those on wheels.  The one near
the lake is meant for pedestrians.

“The renovation of the park is a historic occasion and the work that was done should help to preserve and protect our eco-system and will continue to provide an awesome and natural sanctuary for many years to come,” O’Dell, said.

Along with the changes in the landscape of the park, visitors may be equally impressed with the new buildings at Shelby Farms.

“The buildings were inspired by Memphis, itself.  They are distinctive and different from one another and they embody a city known for the blues and rock-n-roll, offering a subtle and deep appreciation of the land on which it is built,” Marlon Blackwell, of Marlon Blackwell Architects, said.

Of the many changes to the Heart of the Park, the most
significant one was to the lake.  Aside from a name change,
it also underwent a change in size and shape.  The
surrounding landscape was also modified with trees
and a new wetland area.

“Every building has its own porch and area of shade for refuge within a landscape that can be enjoyed in solitary or socially.  They offer a place of transition between the indoors and outdoors and they are subtly introduced to one another, ” Blackwell said.

“Not only do we have these beautiful buildings and this incredible landscape, we also have a thriving business that’s going to serve as a model for others to emulate,” Andrews said.

Throughout the 15 years of changes at Shelby Farms, it has survived political and fundraising setbacks and the worst financial downturn in recent history.

The efforts to get Shelby Farms Park to where it is today has
been in the works for 15 years and it has included an
investment of $70 million.  This transformation is expected
to be one of the many things that will be a big draw for
visitors and tourists and something that Memphians will
be able to enjoy and be proud of.

The entire process, according to retired Shelby Farms Park executive director Laura Morris began in 2001 when Ron Terry, then chairman of what was known as First Tennessee Bank, outlined a vision for an improved park. 

The County Commission had initially rejected a proposal to place the park under a conservation easement so a private group could manage it.  That finally did come, however, in in 2007, which allowed the Shelby Farms Conservancy to take over and to draft a master plan the following year.  Following that, the fundraising effort began and the rest is history.

Shelby Farms Park will have a bike rental facility on its north
side (near Farm and Mullins Station Rd).  The newer one is
near the First Tennessee Foundation Visitor Center in the
Heart of the Park.
For cyclists, the new and improved Shelby Farms Park will be like an oasis and the perfect place to rest or grab a bite to eat when riding along an ever-growing network of bike trails and bike lanes that we will continue to see in the Memphis area in the years ahead. 

The park will provide something not only for cyclists, but also for walkers, runners, kite-flyers, kayakers, birdwatchers, picnickers, and so many others to enjoy and to be proud of for generations to come.

The park will be hosting 30 days of celebration in the month of September in which they will offer free events in the Heart of the Park.  Click here to learn more.

To find out more about Shelby Farms, visit their website at: