Standing next to his bicycle outside Lucky’s Market on Saturday, Jon Rosen had no idea how he was going to carry 10 pounds of potatoes across town. He had a packaged ham and a frozen pie to schlep as well, along with 46 ounces of apple sauce and a few other groceries.
Then C.J. Banks pulled up and parked his two-wheeler with a trailer in a tow, throwing Rosen a wave and pulling out his shopping list.
“Now that’s the way to go,” said Rosen, fiddling with a drawstring backpack. “This is going to be a long ride.”
Two dozen cyclists rode in the first annual “Cranktivus” — combine some bike lingo, or “crank,” with the winter holiday of Seinfeld lore, “Festivus” — on Saturday, sending some intrepid riders to local grocery stores to purchase holiday meals for clients of the Central Pantry.
“This is the first time someone has strapped a ham to their body and rode through Columbia for us,” said Pantry Supervisor Sean Ross. The effort hauled in 433 pounds of food and another $200 in cash donations, he said.
Event Director Beth Shepard said she got the idea from “Cranksgiving” food drives around the country. It’s just that the date she chose was a little too late for a Thanksgiving-themed event.
Festivus, she said, is good, wholesome, nondenominational fun — aside from the “airing of grievances,” another aspect of the fictional Seinfeld holiday.
“It’s an adventure,” Shepard said. That’s one way to describe it, Ross said.
“Really I’m open to anything,” he said. “I thought it was a crazy idea, but I did crazy things when I was younger, too.”
Cyclists are the kind of community that likes to do those sorts of excursions, said Misty Brawner, vice president of the Columbia Multisport Club and provider of technical support during the race.
The rider who returned the fastest with food from all five stops, Lucky’s, Schnucks on Forum Boulevard, and Walmart, Gerbes and Hyvee on West Broadway, won a small prize. So did the rider who brought back the most food and went beyond the required list.
“Cyclists are a pretty unique brand,” said Brawner. “They want to get out and ride. You give them a reason and they’ll go out for it.”
And a reason to ride in the winter is even more compelling, she said. That spirit lends itself to a funky camaraderie between fellow cyclists who can appreciate a long ride or race in the spring without the benefit of a winter ride, she said.
“It’s a weird sense of competition, but in a fun way,” said Barbie Banks, who manned the race’s headquarters at Walt’s Bike Shop.
Kind of like the Festivus “feats of strength?”
“Let’s just say, they’re go-getter people,” Brawner said. “When you go out and ride so many miles together, you become a community.”
Shepard posted flyers at local bike shops in the weeks leading up to the race and made a Facebook event. Riders pushed off from Walt’s seven minutes past noon and Shepard and Barbie Banks had delivered donations by 3 p.m.
Ross said the pantry, a division of the Food Bank of Northeast and Central Missouri, will distribute the contributions as meals to families so they can have them for the holidays, something the organization can’t manage to do every year.
“I think it was such an awesome, unique idea especially for the holiday,” he said. “When you hand someone a basket and tell them, ‘This is a meal that someone wanted you to have for your family,’ they’ll break down. They’ll hug you. It means so much to them.”