Ventura, Calif. — On May 16th, the Amgen Tour of California roared into Ventura in a blaze of color, glory, and breathlessness, and Ventura responded in kind.
With the eyes of the cycling world (and beyond) fixed on what is normally a laid back Southern California beach town, Ventura unleashed a joyous clamor and visual extravaganza to celebrate America’s biggest cycling race. Stunt planes blazed through the sky, hundreds of thundersticks whopped out a happy mad-clap din, two thousand cowbells clanged, drums thumped, and the Cabrillo Middle School jazz band blurted boogie as the men’s and women’s riders flew through the seaside town’s streets to the final sprint along the beach, and the finish at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.
Ventura’s happy celebration was months in the planning, with the City of Ventura and dozens of city and community groups working together with the Amgen Tour of California and AEG Worldwide (the world’s leading sports and live entertainment company). Few stones were left unturned.
“We knew this was the chance for our town to shine bright on the world stage, and the creativity and the collaboration started the day after last year’s race,” said Marlyss Auster, President & CEO of the Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau. “It was a collaborative effort on a grand scale, and it produced a hundred perfect details that made the day sing.”
Details like Ventura’s signature ambigram logo (larger than life at 48 feet long and seventeen feet high) painted on top of City Hall and the Ventura Beach Marriott and sprawled across numerous streets, making for close to 500 feet of VENTURA in all (thank you, artisans from the Department of Parks & Recreation). And swirling Mariachi Reyes and dancing Grupo Folklorico Fusion Mexicana, proudly showcasing Ventura’s diverse tapestry of culture. And precisely the right local hero to present the blue “Most Courageous Rider” jersey (awarded to the male or female cyclist who, on that day’s ride, best displayed the courage of those engaged in the fight against cancer/heart disease). Thank you Suz Montgomery, three-time cancer survivor, a supporter of cancer survivors, electric dynamo, and Ventura shining light, for helping Ventura do its part for the Amgen Breakaway Challenge, which supports the fight against heart disease and cancer.
And the Big Stuff. The stunt flyover at 2:20 pm, Red Bull Air race pilot and local Sammy Mason (the youngest Red Bull pilot ever) spelling out a perfect “V” against a blue and blustery Southern California sky. The chance for the Tour riders to meet other athletic stars, Ventura County Special Olympians skipping up on to the main stage to shake the hands of lucky Tour riders (marking the first time the Amgen Tour of California has engaged with the Special Olympics). And — not quite visible from space — an enormous VENTURA chalked out on the Cabrillo Middle School playing field, echoing a similar stunning display in 2016 of VENTURA spelled out by 900 student bodies (and Cabrillo staff) that first grabbed AEG’s attention.
“That was the first time anything like that had ever been done before,” said Auster. “It was the perfect representation of how our town came together. And it gave everyone goosebumps.”
Goosebumps were the calling card today. With the Tour riders exhibiting heroic grit, the stunt planes marking community in the skies, and hundreds of folks from the Ventura community lining the streets to cheer, clang and thunderstick-whop, it was a great day for both cycling and Ventura.
“We’re a town that likes to have fun, so why not do it in a big way?” said Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere (a cyclist himself). “We truly appreciate the Amgen Tour of California coming to our town. We wanted to say thank you in our unique Ventura style.”
In the skies, in the streets, the lesson was everywhere. Who better than an educator to see it?
“I think the idea of dreaming big, of deciding on a goal and following it through, of doing your absolute best, we all become better for seeing that,” said Lorelle Dawes, who, along with being an unabashed cycling fan, doubles as principal of Cabrillo Middle School. “We can all learn and grow from seeing greatness.”
On and off the course.