VERSAILLES – Dozens of children – some as young as three, others as old as nine and 10 – went through a maze of orange cones following chalk arrows on June 6. Their goal? Learn to control their bicycles and to ride them safely. The Bike Rodeo course, set up by the Versailles Fire Department and Versailles EMS, is an annual event promoting bike safety for children.
Each year they have drawings to give away bicycles, provide free helmets and install safety devices on each child’s bike. This year they gave 14 bicycles to lucky children and installed orange reflector flags on all bikes.
“Last year we installed LED lights,” said Crystal Buteau, chair of this year’s Bike Rodeo. “This year it’s flags… next year will be something new.” She noted they gave away more than 100 helmets last year. “We started with 124 helmets this year,” she said, “and we only have about 35 left.” It was 10 a.m.; the rodeo started at nine and wouldn’t be over until noon.
She noted the event could draw as many as 150 kids during nice weather; the previous year when it was cold and drizzling the bike course had to be set up inside the fire house. About 90 children showed up. This year, however, more than 155 kids attended, Buteau said.
“We successfully 113 of them with new helmets,” she added. “The objective is to emphasize bicycle safety to local children, as well as provide safety equipment to attendees in a fun-filled environment… it’s an amazing feeling to see our children enjoying their summer… knowing we were all a part of making them aware of safety!”
The children enjoyed the challenges of getting through the orange cones… some so much they did it repeatedly. According to Mike and Kay Rose, their daughter Madison (9) and granddaughter Layla Wheeldon (7) will run it as many times as they are allowed.
A notable addition to the event this year was the Sparky Bounce House. “We got it last year,” Buteau said. “We rent it out for donations (to help support the fire department).” She added they also make it available to 501c3’s to help in their fundraising. “As soon as we take it down here we’re taking it to Rossburg for their fire department’s fundraising event.”
The bounce house was purchased with donations, as were the bicycles, helmets, hot dogs, drinks and more. “All the people who donated made this possible,” she said.
In addition to the efforts of Fire Department and EMS volunteers, Poultry Days Committee members installed the flags on the bicycles and Terry Benge, retired bicycle shop owner, repaired the bikes of the children. “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t keep track, but I guess I’ve been doing this at least 12-14 years.” Also on hand were some other volunteer groups, and Greenville Township’s Rage & Rocco. Later in the morning, CareFlight paid a visit.
According to Brian Pearson, the new Versailles Fire Chief and chairman of TASKS (Teaching about Safety Kids Style), a 501c3, that organization does all the fundraising. “We provide the funding for the bike rodeo. We’ll also be handing out fire prevention booklets and pencils at the fair this year.”
The children winning a new bicycle from the drawing were: Rylee Johnson, Emma Meyer, Camden Beisner, Claire Holzapfel, Averi Ahrens, Noah Voisard, Amy Roquemore, Damien Whittaker, Noah Koopman, Maleah Bulcher, Lucas Alton, Will Roquemore, Alexa Didier and Colin Batten.
PHOTO CAPTION: A young bicycle rider gets fitted for a new helmet at the Versailles Bike Rodeo. Kids are taught safety as well as how to maneuver their bicycles through the cones. (Bob Robinson photo)