COVINGTON - Come the weekend of June 7 and 8, Newton County will have something to BRAG about.
Approximately 2,000 bicycle riders are expected to be in town for the 2008 Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, known as BRAG, which will kick off at Oxford College.
The seven-day ride is described by organizers as a recreational tour of the state, not a race. Riders travel at their own pace along a set route, touring small towns and following scenic routes with minimal traffic.
The event is just as likely to draw seasoned cyclists as beginners, and even whole families to participate - it's not uncommon to see a three-person tandem bike in the mix, said Maurice Carter, who is chairman of the local organizing committee for the event.
"It's a rolling party," Carter said.
And it's a party that will bring in sales tax revenues and exposure to Newton County.
This year's ride will start in Oxford on June 8 and end June 14 on St. Simon's Island. Most of the riders are expected to arrive in town on June 7 though some could arrive on June 6.
"So many of our hotels are already booked solid for the seventh," Tourism Director Clara Deemer said.
Between 750 and 1,000 riders are expected to stay overnight, with some camping on the quad at Oxford College. BRAG estimates that about $100,000 is generated in host communities for every night participants spend there.
Just as important as the boost to the local economy is the exposure the ride brings to the community, Carter said.
"It's bringing a lot of folks to this area that might not get here otherwise," he said, adding that he hopes some will return for the Covington Century Bike Ride in August, sponsored by the Conyers-Covington Cycle Club and Project Adventure.
Organizers are also hoping to get local residents out to support the cyclists.
A downtown block party will take place at 6 p.m. June 7 to celebrate the start of the ride.
The party will include a bicycle parade for children, a bicycle decorating contest and entertainment from the Statesboro Blues Band.
The community is also asked to come out from 6 to 8 a.m. June 8 and cheer on riders as they make their way around the Square.
Riders will leave Oxford College and head onto Ga. Highway 81, then head onto West and Clark streets to the Square. They'll then make their way to Washington Street, over to Crowell, Brown Bridge and Kirkland roads, and ride through Rockdale and McDonough on their way to Griffin, the second host city.
There is no set start time for the ride, but Carter said most riders will be on their way by 8 a.m.
BRAG is conducted by Bicycle Ride Across Georgia Inc., a nonprofit corporation, in cooperation with cyclists throughout Georgia and the nation.
For more information, visit www.brag.org.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.