In an ordinary year, hundreds of cyclists would make their way from Ottawa, Montreal, or Prescott-Russell to Vankleek Hill for the brewery’s Oktoberfest celebration. The ride would raise money for United Way Eastern Ontario’s youth homelessness initiatives.
While the pandemic cancelled the mass bike ride into Vankleek Hill, and the in-person festival itself, it did not stop people from fundraising. Instead, cyclists registered for the event, then took off on their own adventures at their own pace over the course of four months.
A total of 335 riders raised $72,596 for youth homelessness initiatives, which broke previous records. While many of the cyclists planned their ride around a stop at Beau’s brewery, one group took on a 190-kilometre overnight ride with 61 pounds of bikes and gear. Others clocked up to 500 kilometres each week.
United Way Eastern Ontario’s strategic partnerships manager, Chelsea McLellan, said the money raised would help youth who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and associated economic downturn.
“The decision to move the event from in-person to virtual wasn’t easy, but we knew that as a result of the pandemic, social challenges were being amplified and disproportionately affecting our communities’ vulnerable people in ways we had never seen before,” she said. “Cycling for a cause was as important as ever.”
Beau’s Oktoberfest event itself went online this year. A 45-minute show with musicians, beer and sausage pairings, and other interactive entertainment was streamed on the brewery’s YouTube account on October 15.
Next year’s event has been tentatively scheduled for September 24 and 25, with a return to a physical festival. Those interested in joining next year’s bike ride can sign up for information at unitedwayeo.ca.