LET’S GET this out of the way: The Midnight Garden Ride isn’t actually at midnight. So rest easy. That said, the Midnight Garden Ride, a nighttime police-escorted cycling trip through Savannah’s most picturesque areas, is one of our most unique and fun annual events.
It’s also the number-one fundraiser for one of Savannah’s most effective nonprofits, the Savannah Bicycle Campaign (SBC).
“The Midnight Garden Ride means everything to us,” says SBC Chairperson Caila Brown frankly. “As our biggest fundraiser of the year, it supports our efforts to make Savannah better through and for bicycles.”
In part due to its importance, SBC rescheduled the Ride in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. If you’re already registered, no worries — just show up.
“Now that the streets are being cleared, we hope everyone will come out to celebrate our city,” says John Bennett, executive director of the SBC.
“We hope the return of this event, which has become a fall tradition for so many people, will be especially meaningful this year. Its a signal that the recovery is moving along and the things we love about Savannah will go on.”
This year the Midnight Ride is taking things to the next level, with start/finish at Grayson Stadium instead of downtown as in all previous years.
There’s a full afterparty and concert featuring headliner Edgar Loudermilk and Savannah’s own Britt Scott — voted “Best Local Singer/Songwriter” in our Best of Savannah Reader’s Poll —along with other local musical guests.
The difference-maker this year? You guessed it: The Savannah Bananas.
“With the help of the Savannah Bananas we’ve really been able to expand the event,” says Brown. “The Bananas are helping out with volunteers, so our volunteers won’t be as taxed. We’ve added some kid’s activities, we’re having a bike cube, and we’re hoping the costume contest will be a little expanded and people will be inspired to dress in their Bananas best.”
The Bananas are setting up their full concessions, with beer, soda, and food available for purchase.
Aside from the Bananas, the change of location itself has some bonuses.
“Being at Grayson will have a bunch of benefits,” says Brown. “There’s plenty of parking available, in a safe environment. A lot of people come to the Ride from outside Savannah, so they need a place to park, and then get on their bikes.”
The Bicycle Campaign is used to moving the event around, so that in and of itself isn’t much of a shift in gears (get it?).
“We’ve worked in a variety of locations and squares. We started in Forsyth Park, then moved to Telfair Square, then Ellis Square. So we’re no strangers to doing the event at a new location,” Brown says.
What the change of location does allow is a more targeted effort in a more practical environment – not to mention a chance to revisit the route of the 8.5 mile bicycle ride.
“We’ve sort of flipped the route. Previously we had been going from downtown through Daffin Park and looped and come back. Now we’re starting in Daffin, heading downtown, and looping back to Grayson Stadium,” Brown says.
“Of course we’ll be going back through the same popular squares. We’ll come up Abercorn and run down Barnard. We’ll still be hitting Ellis Square.”
“We’ll be on Whitaker and Drayton for short portions around Forsyth Park. We’ll hop over to Price via Duffy and on through Chatham Crescent.”
Brown stresses that the Midnight Garden Ride is intended to be fun, not a competition.
“This is a great way for people new to cycling in Savannah to get used to riding around the city. It’s a safe way to get introduced to routes within the area,” she says.
“And for those who don’t ride at all, it’s a way to draw attention to the fact that the work the Savannah Bicycle Campaign does helps make the roads safer for all users.”