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Posted: August 3, 2012 Summer Fest expands attendees' experiences - Article from the Leader Telegram

Posted: Friday, August 3, 2012 12:08 am | Updated: 12:11 am, Fri Aug 3, 2012.

For attendees of Downtown Eau Claire, Inc.'s Summer Fest on Saturday, there will be a chance to do more than watch the festivities — they'll be able to participate too.

"We're offering lots of things ... for people to come and try," said Salina Heller, downtown communications and promotions coordinator.

One of the new-this-year opportunities offers festgoers the chance to show off their muscles by signing up for the first-timers' division in the Festival Foods Strongman Competition, which will be held on Main Street. The competition typically features muscle-bound contestants pulling a semitrailer truck, flipping tires and lugging the 4,200-pound Festival Foods shopping cart.

This year, nonprofessionals can test their strength.

"This first-timer's division, they'll be able to do a tire flip or pull the shopping cart ... anybody can register to do that," Heller said.

Summer Fest will take over the downtown area along Barstow Street on Saturday and fill the area with food, classic cars and chalk art, among other activities. Heller said the purpose of the event is to show people coming downtown can be a fun experience.

"It's pretty exciting that we have so many new elements," she said.

Another new event is part of an effort to encourage people to get out on their bikes, said Bob Eierman, chair of the city Bicycle Pedestrian Action Commission. Saturday's bike ride, aptly named the Tour de Summer Fest, is a 10-mile ride that allows cyclists to pedal along a route comprising bike trails and city streets.

"The big idea of the thing is to get people aware that there's these cool bike trails around, that there's these cool bike facilities, that biking is a nice way to get around," Eierman said.

People must bring their own bicycles, and Eierman said organizers ask that people wear helmets. Riders will meet in Phoenix Park for the start of the ride.

"It'll be a slow-paced ride," Eierman said. "This isn't a race."

The bike ride is planned to be the first of several bike rides held at community festivals, he said.

The Tour isn't the only physical activity new to Summer Fest. As people meander through the downtown festival, they'll have the opportunity to win prizes by participating in the Summer Fest Fitness Challenge, said James Riemer, who manages Highland Fitness East Ridge Center.

Riemer said the challenges were designed for everyone and include chopping wood, hurdling objects and pulling a boat. The challenge will be held on Main Street, between Barstow and Farwell streets. Spotters and trainers from Highland Fitness will be onsite to promote safety.

"We are really excited for it," Riemer said. "We just enjoy giving people healthy options."

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