What happened to New Belgium? What happened to the Tour de Fat?


where to start... where to start...

have you seen Smokey and the Bandit?

Sure... that is Coors... but the notion of alcohol sales and distribution plays into this story

New Belgium Brewery is in Fort Collins Colorado

for years you could only get Fat Tire Beer if you were in Colorado or in one of the western states bordering Colorado

it was not uncommon for people visiting Colorado to bring this beer back home from visits to share with friends... as there was no other way for East Coasters to get to sample Fat Tire Amber Ale

over time... New Belgium expanded its distribution to other parts of the United States

when the sales of New Belgium beer expanded around the country... so did the Tour de Fat!

What is the Tour de Fat?

that is a question that is harder to answer than it should be
The Tour de Fat is a one day bicycle themed festival hosted by New Belgium Brewery
the day involves an assortment of bicycle themed activities and entertainment

The Tour de Fat is a day of fun and frivolity
the day beckons for people to let loose and have some fun
costumes are not required... but costumes are encouraged
as are bicycles
bicycles are not mandatory on this day... but bicycles are also encouraged

so... The Tour de Fat is a one day bicycle themed festival
a carnival of sorts
there are all sorts of side show acts
various odd ball games and activities
and then a main event

the Tour de Fat is trip around the United States where New Belgium brings its Fat Tire Beer (and other beers now) on tour...

it is really quite a day...

a day that at one time happened in Washington DC in a time when the Tour de Fat was going to over a dozen cities all over the United States

the Tour de Fat grew and grew and grew
then changed...

There is more to the Tour de Fat than meets the eye...
sure it is a one day party
a festival of sorts...
but there is more

the Tour de Fat was a philanthropic event
all of the proceeds of this event go back to the various bicycle Not for Profits that volunteer to host the event

here in Washington DC I worked with the mountain bike advocacy group MORE to be the liaison between MORE and New Belgium
I organized and ran the Bicycle Valet at the Tour de Fat
while also working to promote the event

in the months leading up to the event I handed out flyers... put up posters in bars around town... and blasted Social Media with updates about the event
my efforts were so great that I won a promotion contest where I was awarded a New Belgium beach cruiser

but... What happened to New Belgium? and what happened to the Tour de Fat?

it was here... it was magnificent... now it is gone...

in short... I really do not know
I never asked... I never really looked into things

New Belgium Brewery was an "employee owned" business
the event was what it was and it grew organically 

I saw the Tour de Fat change...
they tried to change the format
the event became more of a live concert than a festival
a change from a family fun day... to an adult early evening event
the day became a ticketed event rather than a free event
which in my mind... made the day much more difficult to sell

it was like they were trying to reach out to a different demographic
rather than feeding on their fan base... they tried to attract a different group or an additional group 
this change along with some unfortunate weather changed things

two articles about the sale of New Belgium Brewing and the end of the employee owned business

I hope this was a win for the workers...
I hope in the long term... that this is a win for the fans of New Belgium Brewing
but really... the company identity was so much of the product
and... as said...
there seemed to be some major changes
changes that did not seem positive to me

if it ain't broke... don't fix it!

but... what do I know
New Belgium was not entirely on my radar before The Tour de Fat came to town and well...
New Belgium is not really on my radar now that Tour de Fat is no longer passing through DC...

for several years New Belgium Brewing brought its bicycle themed circus sideshow to Washington DC...
it was really quite a day
a day were the uptight DC types loosened up a bit
people dressed up and had fun

it was a giggle... a laugh... a hoot, a holler, a scream!

all sorts of people came out to volunteer
while so many others came out to experience the Tour de Fat
it was really quite special
New Belgium and the Tour de Fat was a day not like any other
were... well... yes... were...

honestly... I never really got to experience the Tour de Fat
my duties on that day were to lead a color cast of characters to run the bicycle valet
with thousands of people coming and going all day long on their bicycles
there is no way there are enough bicycle racks and No Parking signs for people to lock up

so... each year as the Bike Valet Team Lead I gathered volunteers... set schedules... and guided the action at Bike Valet on the day of...

bicycles coming and going all day...
from open to close...
a sea of bicycles...
it was really a site...

volunteering at the Tour de Fat is a Tour de Fat experience in itself

I really enjoyed it... everyone who volunteered really enjoyed it... even in the rain

the music and entertainment were both eclectic and top notch
there was spoke word by THE MOTH
there was comedy by Reggie Watts
each year had a musical headline that was unknown to be but so spectacular that my mind was blown

have you heard of Mucca Pizza?
neither had I... they are awesome!

in addition to the event itself...
New Belgium took on the role of mentor with the various advocacy groups
there were events that brought local bicycle advocacy groups 
advocates where shown ways to be more effective advocates
it was a great gathering of people and various advocacy groups

so many bicycle minded people with a love for their bicycle community
doing what they could to make their bicycle world better

hard to believe so much time has passed since the last Tour de Fat
the change of the event was a sad way to wind things down
the last a final year in DC it rained
I can not recall... but I think the last year was "a wash"

although the event was fueled by beer
it was really a good day for family fun
my boys would go to the event each year
much like myself
the corral with the kinetic bicycle sculptures was one of their favorite parts of the day

the New Belgium "carnies" are a clever bunch
over the years they have created dozens and dozens of bicycle-like contraptions
there is a pit where people take turns trying out these various rideable pieces of art
it is chaos
it is cool

over the years of volunteering at these events I made many new friends
friends with the New Belgium staff that was coming to town
while also getting to know other advocates and cementing friendships with them
and of course
the Bike Valet Volunteers

I am forever thankful to any and all that assisted with the TdF Bike Valet

thank you New Belgium 
or at least...

photos and words about the Tour de Fat on the Gwadzilla Blog

this links are rich with images, words, and memories...

one year I was gifted the assignment of making the "Slow Ride" Championship Belt
it was fun to get to play "New Belgium Carney"

below is my older son Dean displaying the Slow Ride Belt...
it was really something
brake levers that activated the bells...
Scrabble letters...
bottle opener on a retractable chain...
a DC flag created out of New Belgium Swag

and a cowbell... we always need MORE COWBELL!