42 kids, a bunch of bikes, fresh popcorn, sunshine, and a whole lot of fun
Sunday, June 5th was our first HUB Langley Committee public event and I'm happy to report that it went very well.
The idea to get involved with the MEC Langley Bikefest started last year when our committee had an information tent at the 2015 Bikefest -- it was a great opportunity to meet people in the community and talk about bikes and cycling. Since then, MEC has generously invited us back on several occasions to have an information table in the store which has enabled us to reach out to many people who support cycling in Langley.
We wanted to make a bigger contribution to the event this year so last December when an email newsletter from the City of Langley was received that had an article about applications being accepted for the City's Community Grant Program, ideas immediately began forming.
The next stop was to MEC in Langley to see if the store wanted to have the Learn2Ride program at the Bikefest and if so, we'd look at what it would take to make it work and then submit an application for the Community Grant Program. Word came back from MEC Head Office -- we got permission and were good to begin organizing our first HUB Langley/MEC Bikefest Learn to Ride Program. Lots of calls and emails between the HUB Langley Committee, HUB Headquarters, MEC, Envision Financial, insurance agents, and instructors and we were on our way -- the wheels were turning.
We were fortunate that the City of Langley selected our application for a community grant and awarded us with $1000 which paid for the majority of our costs to bring instructors, a few loaner bikes, and pay for insurance for the day.
Working with MEC to plan the event has been a huge pleasure and all the staff and management there are great to work with. Rafael, our main Bikefest contact was on top of things from the onset, making sure that details for the day were taken care of well ahead of time. A manager change occurred at the store while we were in the process of making plans and both past manager, Karen and present manager, Khrista were terrific as were staff members Kathy and Ardeen, who both helped with some of final arrangements.
We learned that Envision Financial has a Tent and Popcorn Machine program for non-profit organizations and since our event qualified, we applied for both. There were no tents available for the day but we were given the use of a popcorn machine including all the popcorn and bags that we would need. The popcorn was a big hit and made a great snack along with ice cold water and flavoured drinks that MEC provided.
To promote the Learn2Ride program we had signs at the MEC Langley store along with sign-up sheets at the event table for a few weeks before the Bikefest. Our website was updated with information about the event, and an online form was created for signing up. But a week and a half before the event we found that we weren't getting any responses. We made new signs and put them on the MEC check out counters and figured that surely, this will work as every person making a purchase can't help but read about it. Still no sign-ups. We had been posting about the event on Facebook and on our website but registration just wasn't happening and we couldn't figure out why -- maybe people have other stuff on the go, maybe they don't want to commit until they know what the weather is doing, maybe it was something entirely different.
We were now at Monday, less than week before the event and we had only 2 sign-ups. Only 2! We contacted a few local schools and spoke to the principals who agreed to send out flyers out to all the students at their schools aged 8-12. On short notice we managed to call a few schools, get flyers designed, printed, distributed to the schools, and handed out to 700 kids. Thanks to Douglas Park Elementary, Langley Meadows Elementary, and West Langley Elementary schools for helping us to promote the event!
On Tuesday morning the flyers had been dropped off at the schools and would be sent home with kids on either Wednesday or Thursday. Still wanting to do more I considered other options and decided to give Facebook a shot. I clicked on the "Boost Post" button for our Facebook post and started a promotion campaign. I was able to focus on the target demographic by age, location, interests (and more). I entered my credit card information and clicked on the go button and waited. Nothing. More waiting. More nothing. Heck, an hour had gone by already and only a few more clicks on the post than before the paid promotion. Maybe I'm too impatient. I should go for a bike ride.
I return a couple of hours later from my ride and am happy in the increase in activity on our Facebook page. The ad has been seen by some 400 people and we'd gotten a few likes on our Facebook page. I fine tune the demographic reach and wait. More results -- and more interaction, a few more likes on our page -- more clicks to our website -- and a few more sign-ups. We're now at ten sign-ups and it's only Wednesday evening -- there are still three more days to go. I relax a bit.
By late Thursday afternoon we've got 14 kids signed up but in the evening things got interesting. My fine tuning of the Facebook demographic seemed to be working, we're now at more than 8,000 post views and for a while sign-ups are coming in at a rate of 2 or 3 a minute. As I'm entering the data into a spreadsheet my email is dinging with another sign-up. And then another. By midnight Friday we had over 40 kids signed up! Nearly 50 had signed up by Saturday night and by 10:00am on Sunday we had a total of 56 kids signed up! We didn't quite reach our goal (and maximum) of 60 kids but we were pretty close.
The Big Day
We arrived at MEC at 8:30am and the fellows delivering the popcorn machine were already there and we give them a hand to unload the machine. MEC staff had brought out tents and were setting them up for ourselves and for the St John's Ambulance first aid attendants that MEC saw to have on hand. Having first aid attendants handy turned out to be a good thing as later in the day one tyke fell and scraped his knee -- nothing serious at all but it was nice to have the medical attendants close by. Our instructors arrived in their car-share van promptly at 9:30am, an hour before the first class and begin setting up the course. Tables and chairs are brought out, sunscreen is slathered on, the popcorn machine is plugged in and popping, and we're ready to roll as we approach ten o'clock. Kids began arriving shortly after 10:00 and by 10:30 everyone was booked in, photo releases signed, and the first class was ready to start.
It was quite warm in the morning with not a lot of air movement. The instructors paused the class after each segment and the kids all had a break for a few minutes to get a drink and a popcorn snack before resuming with the lessons. Kudos to instructors Donna and Ben for their concern about keeping the kids well hydrated. Several parents offered to lend a hand and participated by helping at the stations and ensured that the kids were riding correctly. Smiles were everywhere.
The first two sessions went off without a hitch and only a few people who registered not showing up. The last afternoon session, which had the largest booking -- 23 kids in all, turned out to be our least attended session as 11 of the kids were no-shows. We suspect this was because of the weather. With temps in the range of 32 degrees it was definitely one of the hottest days of the year so far and we figure that parents were likely with their kids at soccer or baseball games all morning and decided it was just too darned hot to be standing on pavement watching their kids riding bikes in the afternoon.
The kids (and parents) who did show up for the last session did have a great time despite the heat and the instructors wisely worked in a couple more hydration breaks with rests in a shady spot.
We had a few HUB Langley committee members help out on the day -- special thanks to Aven and Tony for being there, and to Geraldine for stopping by in the afternoon. We also had a nice visit from one of the Township of Langley engineers and West Langley Elementary Principal, Mr. Oliver stopped by to see how things were going as well.
In all, our first event in Langley was a huge success and there are 42 kids who are now a bit more street savvy with a few more of the skills necessary to become responsible cyclists in our community.
A big thank you goes out to all the parents who showed up with their kids -- we're glad that you could make it! And an extra thanks to the parents who helped our instructors with the stations.
Another thank you to the dedicated and passionate members of the HUB Langley Committee and to the staff at HUB Headquarters who were involved in the preparation -- you all rock.
And of course a huge tip of the hat to MEC, Envision Financial, and especially to the City of Langley -- without your support this could not have happened.
On behalf of the HUB Langley Committee I would like to extend our deepest appreciation and thanks to everyone involved for the opportunity to contribute to our community.
If you attended the event or just have something to say about it, please leave a comment below.
HUB Langley Chair, 2016