After Mark Griffith lost his older brother to cancer in 2000, he needed to take action. To deal with his grief, Griffith tapped into his love of cycling and started the Skinny Tire Festival to raise money for cancer survivorship programs.
This year, March 11-14, the Moab Skinny Tire Festival will continue to raise funds for survivors. Approximately 500 participants are expected to cover more than 150 miles during the four-day event. Cyclists will ride through Dead Horse Point State Park and along the Colorado River. The festival’s usual route through Arches National Park will be replaced with a ride up the La Sal Loop Road to Pack Creek Ranch, due to construction in Arches.
Over the years, the festival has raised $6.6 million for cancer research and survivorship organizations, organizers said. Donations go to the Moab cancer treatment infusion room. Participants also have the option to fundraise for their own community cancer survivorship organizations.
“Every single cyclist that comes to this event donates,” said festival organizer Beth Logan. “I’m really proud of that ... Everyone who comes and visits our little town is supporting us in some way, not just by hotels and restaurants, but by actually giving back to a need in our community.”
Besides raising money, the Skinny Tire Festival is also a community of people, many of whom return year after year, Logan said. This year, one man is returning to ride in celebration of being five years in remission.
“He originally came to our event years ago, then he came down with cancer. He’s been fighting it for a number of years,” Logan said. “There are 20 stories like that. We have people who’ve been coming to this event since the beginning, then someone in their life goes through cancer. They come back and tell the story and cry together ... It’s symbolic — I’m here again, I’m fighting the fight, I’m cancer free.”
Sunday night will feature cyclist and author Dave Shields as a festival guest speaker. Shields will share clips and stories from the movie “Barnstorm,” based on his novel “The Race,” after dinner at Red Cliffs Lodge.
“He’s extremely gifted and very funny,” said Logan. “He’s a very humble person but he’s a delight to listen to.”
Road cycling may not be the first association people make when thinking of Moab as a bike mecca, but Logan said this is a good place for the festival.
“We have great roads. The landscape is just awe-inspiring,” she said.
The festival takes place in March, before the busiest part of the tourist season, so that participants can enjoy the views without competing with too much traffic, she said.
Registration for the Skinny Tire Festival is open until the day of the event, and Logan invited local residents interested in participating to contact her at 435-260-8889 or by email at: email@example.com.