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Bikes, birthday cake converge downtown

June 23, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two celebrations in one were the order of the day Sunday as hundreds of people converged in downtown Martinsburg to pay tribute to the founding of the state and participate in a two-state biking event.

Friday marked the 140th birthday for the state of West Virginia, but Main Street Martinsburg officials had to cancel a party to celebrate the milestone due to rainy weather, said Jeff Curtis, director of Main Street Martinsburg.

Main Street officials decided to hold off the celebration until Sunday, when the Bike Virginia event would be coming to town.

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Bike Virginia is an annual event in which bicycling enthusiasts ride through parts of the Shenandoah Valley.

On Sunday, Bike Virginia participants rode from Winchester, Va., to Martinsburg, where they were greeted with cake and ice cream at the town square at the intersection of King and Queen streets.

Local residents mixed with the bicyclists as they ate and listened to local guitarist Sam Felker, who played under a canopy in the middle of King Street.

Many of the bicyclists were preparing to stay overnight in tents they set up on the grounds of Martinsburg High School on South Queen Street. Others stayed in local motels, said Bob O'Connor, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

O'Connor's organization joined with other groups, including the City of Martinsburg and the Jefferson County Board of Education to organize the event.

The bicyclists were treated to lunch at the B&O Roundhouse off East Martin Street and were expected to have dinner in the Martinsburg High School cafeteria, Curtis said.

Berkeley County Schools buses were used to shuttle bike riders to their motels, the roundhouse and other locations, O'Connor said.

Bike riders were seen throughout the area Sunday afternoon and officials said they took in a number of local attractions, such as restaurants. About 1,850 bicyclists participated in the event.

"It really boosts the economy," O'Connor said.

Today, the bicyclists are expected to ride from Martinsburg to Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Tuesday they are expected to ride from Shepherdstown to Harpers Ferry, W.Va., O'Connor said.

Bike Virginia will conclude Wednesday, when the riders return to Winchester.

One of the bicyclists, Dave Taylor, took some time out to eat ice cream at the town square Sunday afternoon. Taylor said he has been on other bike rides but Bike Virginia is one of his favorites.

Taylor said it took him about three hours of back-road riding to reach Martinsburg.

"They try and keep us out of traffic. So you're working in and out of country lanes," said Taylor, who lives outside of Atlanta.

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