Fat & Skinny Tire Fest organizers see multiple reasons for optimism

Photo provided
By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
Mike Cusick

WARSAW — The Fat and Skinny Tire Fest begins Friday morning and continues through the weekend in Warsaw and Winona Lake, and organizers are seeing signs that it could be bigger than ever.

The nineteenth annual bike festival is already considered to be the biggest in the Midwest and organizers point to several reasons for optimism heading into the three-day weekend event.

Organizers said they’ve seen an uptick in the number of volunteers as well as additional support from merchants in downtown Warsaw as a result of the new alignment with Third Friday and bike-related activities on Friday night.

Greg Demopoulos

The bike festival kicks off Friday morning with bike-to-work activities starting at Lite Rail Cafe in Winona Lake and outside of Courthouse Coffee in downtown Warsaw where bicyclists will gather before heading off to work.

Festival co-directors Mike Cusick and Greg Demopoulos think the combining of bike activities with Third Friday that will include live music and additional food trucks will draw more people to the downtown.

Last year saw a full post-pandemic return with more than 2,300 participants, 7000 spectators and 300 volunteers and officials anticipate bigger crowds this year.

“I think, with some good weather, the focus of Third Friday and that crowd into the addition of the cycling crowd, we have an opportunity to see a very large group Friday night,” Cusick said during a an interview for In The Know, the public affairs show that airs this weekend on Kensington Digital Media radio stations.

Official opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. at Trailhouse Bicycles in The Village at Winona before a massive bike ride begins a 2.5-mile ride to downtown Warsaw where criterium races around the Kosciusko County Courthouse and a BMX bike stunt show begin at 7:30 p.m.

This year marks the first year for the newly established DORA districts in both Warsaw and Winona Lake where adults will be able to purchase alcohol in specialized cups from participating businesses and vendors and take them outdoors — anywhere within the district — and watch races.

The new policy means beer tents won’t be needed, which will make it easier on race fans to watch what’s happening.

“We’re very interested to see how this works out this year,” Cusick said.”Certainly, it makes planning much easier for us. Previously, we’d have to have a beer tent … and it actually kept some of those spectators away from the race,” Cusick said.

“I think the crowd’s going to really like it because it does give a lot more freedom to roam around with a drink in hand, perhaps, and with their family and really go to different points of the course and see the action,” Cusick said.

The festival website has links to keep updated on any changes, the need for volunteers and a complete list of events.

Cusick says social media is probably best for quick updates.