Norwalk hopes for good impression from bicycle trek

NORWALK Even though tourist brochures are a popular way to promote a city, nothing quite compares to
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Even though tourist brochures are a popular way to promote a city, nothing quite compares to seeing the destination first-hand.

That's why Melissa James is so thrilled about Norwalk hosting the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure this weekend.

"There's 2,700 people -- the majority of whom don't live here -- who will see our area," said James, executive director of the Norwalk Huron-County Chamber of Commerce. "Every one of them works someplace and many own a business. What if they are looking for a different place to do business? ... They may be in Spandex and a helmet today, but they may be running a business tomorrow, and that business could be looking for a new place to go."

For the first time ever, Norwalk was the starting and finish line for the seven-day bike ride across Ohio.

City leaders helped roll out the red carpet for participants in the annual Bicycle Adventure, and Saturday was jam-packed withactivities in Uptown Norwalk.

A street fair shared the top billing along with a bike parade featuring the participants of the bike trek. Simultaneously there was an Art Walk featuring more than a dozen local artists at a number of locations across the city.

There was food, music and all sorts of wheels -- from tractors to semi-trucks -- on display.

It's not that the Bicycle Adventure will put Norwalk on the map. It's already there and has been there for a long time, city officials said.

Attractions like Summit Motorsports Park, the Huron County Fairgrounds, Eagle Creek Golf Course and the city's proximity to Cedar Point have helped build a positive reputation for the Maple City, said Mayor Sue Lesch.

But in recent months, the area has received a fair amount ofnegative attention for itsemployment troubles.

Huron County had the unflattering distinction of leading Ohio for unemployment for several months in a row.

Lesch said hosting the bike event will introduce visitors to some of the city's lesser known businesses and attractions.

"A lot of people don't know we have a museum -- I believe our historical society is one of the oldest in the state -- which has a wonderful collection of guns and Civil War items," Lesch said. "I also think people don't know about our shops, too, like Robert's Art Gallery with its beautiful art and our Antique Mall."

Casual travelers passing through on their way to Cedar Point or the race park might not know about the golf course, Victorian bed and breakfast and restaurants.

Despite the area's gloomy unemployment figures, Norwalk has had a string of new businesses open in the last couple months, including a video game store, uptown restaurant and bargain clothing shop.

The scenic ride through Ohio's green farmland will undoubtedly impress bikers. But Norwalk's leaders are hoping the Maple City will also leave a positive and lasting impression.