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  • Tue March 16 2021
  • Posted Mar 27, 2021

Each July, the streets around City Park are crowded with hundreds of people, taking in the sounds of live music from the bandshell, enjoying some delicious barbecue and brews, and of course, seeing cyclists compete.

But the most recent Bicycle, Blues & BBQ Festival in 2019, the 15th, would be the last.After cancelling it in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the annual 3-day event say they are ending it, citing economic concerns.

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In a Facebook post, organizers Tim Putnam and Matt Curtis call it a “very difficult decision” and say they are “grateful beyond measure” for the support the festival received since it began as a small grass-roots gathering in 2004.

Leman Northway has been the official photographer of the race since 2012, first starting off in a volunteer role.

"Before my kids were born, I had taken a couple of courses at NIACC, and I met Tim there. He knew I liked photography for a hobby, and asked me to come shoot his bike race."

Over the years, he would come to know many of the racers, and expand to photographing other cycling events around Iowa.

"I met other race organizers, shoot more things, more races. I met people at races where I'd shoot their weddings later."

Now that the event has come to an end, he hopes that someone can revive it.

"2018 was probably the biggest crowd I've ever seen there, and '19 was pretty big too. The crowds were getting bigger every year compared to that first year I shot it almost 10 years ago. It was huge."

If offered the chance to be the photographer of the festival again, he'd jump at the chance.

"That race course has really nice shots on it that I've learned over the years."

About 150 volunteers are called in each year to help with the event.


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