About 30 Pine and Strawberry residents huddled around tables in the Pine Community Center on an early summer evening to plan what’s becoming one of Rim Country’s most exciting outdoor annual festivals — the Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race.
“The racers say they love the community support at this event,” said Judy Brandt, one of the key organizers of the mid-September race.
She said on the day of the race, the number of volunteers mushrooms to 100.
Already some of the people at Tuesday’s meeting have fanned out in the community, putting together lodging specials, soliciting silent auction donations and lining up music acts and food vendors.
Publicity Chair Ernie Borgoyne does an annual survey that shows more than half the people attending come from outside Rim Country.
“We’ve had people from New Mexico, Colorado and California, in addition to the Valley visitors,” he said.
Each year the number of racers has doubled. Organizers predict around 400 participants this year.
The trail’s reputation does not hurt, either. Racers in years past have praised the challenging course.
“This race is difficult for a novice racer,” said Mick Wolf, owner of the only mountain bike shop in Rim Country, official Fire on the Rim race mechanic, and a founding member of the race.
In fact, Wolf said he helped to name the race.
“They called everyone and asked for suggestions on a name, but it had to have fire in it,” he said.
He immediately thought of the title of the Grateful Dead song, “Fire on the Mountain.” Organizers modified it to Fire on the Rim to avoid copyright infringement, Wolf said.
And so, the name was born.
Wolf said participants who have raced the popular Whiskey 50 race in Prescott, praise the Pine-Strawberry course, although it requires three loops to accumulate the needed 50 miles.
Wolf said race organizers hope to expand the year-round trails for hiking and biking in the area with money raised by the race. People in the area have already secured NEPA clearance from the Forest Service and convinced the Arizona Trail organization to reroute the border-to-border trail through Pine and Strawberry.
But the primary purpose of this race remains raising money to help create a firebreak around the vulnerable communities.
Fire officials say without such a fire break, they cannot save the community in the event of a crown fire.
But with state and federal grants to fund brush and tree removal drying up, residents have taken it into their own hands to create the weekend-long festival to renewably fund fuel reduction.
“A fire here would be devastating,” said Katie Calderon, the other co-chair of the event.
That Brewery owner Tamera Morten said she and her husband Steve decided to support the event after visiting Fruita, Colo. and hearing its story.
A farming community facing hard times, Fruita town leaders decided to promote the area as a mountain biking Mecca — starting with annual summer race festivals, such as the Fat Tire race. The festivals caught on, boosting the economy.
The organizers of the Fire on the Rim race have a whole weekend planned from a spaghetti dinner on Friday evening before the race, to live music after the race on Saturday evening. On Sunday, riders can ride the new three-mile trail in the area.
Camping or lodging is available all weekend.
Organizers need help now in various areas such as trail building and food vending. If interested in volunteering for the race, please contact Janet Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the race, visit www.fireontherim.com.