By Aimee Ortiz
BOSTON, Mass.—On 22 November, Boston held its first annual Cranksgiving: a bicycle race that also combined a scavenger hunt and a food drive into one event.
A hundred and sixty cyclists gathered at Copley Square for registration and the start of the race. Everyone was given a Cranksgiving manifest to follow. Pasta, rice, peanut butter and even cat food were among the items that participants had to find.
Spanning across town and coupled with two pit stops (one ran by Somerville Homeless Coalition volunteers and another drop by the MSPCA), the race ended at the Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville.
David Boudreau, the co-organizer of Cranksgiving Boston, believes that this is only the beginning for Boston. He first got involved with Cranksgiving in 2012, taking part in the NYC race.
“Lately, the past couple of years, the Boston bike scene has just blown up. The Boston Bike Party is a monthly event that has ridership around 250-300 riders, every single month, and they’ve also tied in some aspects of giving back to the community. It just seemed like the right year to move this event to Boston,” said Boudreau. “It’s a great way for people to do things they love – ride a bike, solve mysteries and help charitable causes.”
Charlotte Fagan, Boudreau’s co-organizer, has also been involved in the alley-cat (slang for informal bike race) scene for a while – going back to 2009/2010. After organizing a race in September, she was the ideal candidate to help Boudreau.
“This isn’t a really hardcore alley-cat, this is about giving back and having a day of fun,” said Charlotte Fagan, Boudreau’s co-organizer. “I definitely feel that there will be a Cranksgiving in Boston for many years after this year.”
Cranksgiving began in New York City in 1999 thanks to the work of Ken Stanek. Stanek found that Cranksgiving was a change of pace from the usual bike races, which only challenged him to ride hard and fast. Now he had to pick up a package and deliver it in one piece.
“It was also a way of giving back to the community,” said Stanek. “It was just a great idea that really tied into the whole work of a bike messenger and the challenge of it, and it was just a really beneficial event in the first place.”
Boston’s first Cranksgiving is giving all of its proceeds to the Somerville Homeless Coalition and the Greater Food Bank of Boston.
“I was really grateful that they wanted to partner with us because we can use all the help we can get,” said Mark Alston-Follansbee, executive director for the Somerville Homeless Coalition. “I think that these kinds of events, where you have some fun and you do some good, are really smart.”
A recent article in the Boston Globe states that homelessness is rising faster in Massachusetts than in any other state, with a 40 percent rise since 2007.
“We realize how dependent people are on the pantry system to make ends meet,” said Alston-Follansbee. “We see all kinds of people who come here looking for help – one of the really difficult things, since the recession in 2008, is seeing so many people who always had a job and always could pay their rent struggling because rents have increased so much and incomes have stayed basically flat.”
All in all, the Cranksgiving team raised 225 cans of cat food, which were donated to the MSPCA Cats-giving Food Drive, and 2000 food items, including 175 jars of peanut butter. In total, 2500 pounds of food were donated to the two local food pantries.
In addition to the 160 cyclists, Cranksgiving Boston had the support of 12 volunteers and 13 sponsors, as well as a special “Heavy Haulers” team, who crowd-funded $1,195 to spend entirely on food.
“This is great,” said Boudreau as he was handed as 12-foot long receipt.
With all the cyclists back and the food being sorted, Cranksgiving came to a successful end.