BRAG riders pack roads, and businesses, of Morgan

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By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) rode through Morgan County on Apr, 4-6 during their annual Spring TuneUp event. According to their website, BRAG is a “not-for profit corporation dedicated to providing affordable, family-oriented, quality bicycle tours in and across Georgia with an emphasis on bicycling fun, safety and education.”

The bicycle tours rode all through Morgan County and the cyclists took advantage not only of the beautiful scenery, our businesses when they were through biking. Business owners all over Madison appreciated the surge of customers BRAG brought to Madison. “The BRAG attendees always bring a great influx of tourists to our are great town! The bikers love to relax in after their longs rides by strolling the sidewalks and visiting our businesses. I have had many repeat customers each year that return throughout the year too! Business is always great during BRAG.” said Kim Watts, owner of Amelia’s in downtown Madison.

“It’s a great promotion for Madison and Morgan County. People see Madison and they come back. Anything that brings people to Madison and gives them a first-hand view of our city is great. Those are the types of efforts we need to have. It’s a fantastic way to introduce people to Madison,” said Sheri Clark, owner of Madison Gift Mart & Cafe.

Jane Royal, of Madison Markets and the James Madison Inn, looks forward to the BRAG event each year.

“We definitely had increased traffic! At Madison Markets, we had spouses (of the riders) on Saturday and actually had some of the riders come in on Sunday. We did really well!”

The cyclists especially took advantage of the venues that could provide them with the healthy food they need to ride such long distances.

“Business was great and every year I supply  BRAG’s riders with fresh fruit for their rest stops. It is a good event for us as we see a big increase in business. Friday for lunch we were overwhelmed with customers, probably one of the biggest lunch crowds we have ever had,” Andy Oller, owner of Madison Produce. Business owners like Karen Wibell, owner of the Brady Inn in downtown Madison, sees the economic benefits from the BRAG event spill over from just the weekend event into the rest of the year.

“BRAG is always a great weekend. In fact, it is so important to us that we do not accept weddings or other bookings for that weekend’s dates. Now that might sound rather strange, but every year we have a mix of returning guests and a few “newbies” to the Inn and many come for the full three days.   We already have a waiting list for next year. Our BRAG family loves returning to Madison. As a result, the economic impact is not only on this three-day weekend in April, but continues to positively impact our entire community throughout the year.

Rutledge also received a business boost from the BRAG event this past weekend. Joellen Artz, owner of LilyBeth’s in downtown Rutledge, devised a innovative strategy to make purchases more practical for the cyclists riding through town.

“This year I was prepared to counter the all too frequent response of these incredibly friendly riders when they told me they were on their bikes and therefore couldn’t leave with anything bulkier than a postcard.  My new BRAG strategy worked…this year LilyBeth’s delivered purchases to the campgrounds, hotels and inns at the end of the day.  Many of the riders said they’d be back to Rutledge on a future occasion in order to spend more time in the city enjoying our restaurants, shops and the state park,” said Artz.

“Business in Rutledge always receives a significant bump in sales on the Saturday portion of BRAG weekend and we’d love to be included on an additional day if the organization so wished,” added Artz.

Many of the businesses owners were grated to Ellen Ianelli, Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) Director, for coordinating this event for Morgan County.

“Thank you Ellen Ianelli for all the labor you put into getting this organized within Morgan County and thank you to the Chamber for bringing BRAG to us as well,” said Artz. “What would we do without Ellen Ianelli and our CVB?” said Royal.

Ann Huff, Madison Main Street Director, also gave credit to Ianelli for the event. “Thanks to Ellen Ianelli and all the volunteers that helped make the BRAG weekend a huge success.”

“A lot of coordination and energy goes into this event and it couldn’t happen without a dedicated   group of individuals that care about our community.

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