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“There’s a really interesting story about the start of the event, which was initially on July 4,” said Derald Bulls, who has been with the event since it started in 1984.
Bulls, currently director of institutional development/alumni association at Paris Junior College, was then director of community relations for McCuistion Regional Medical Center. Felix Gibson, public relations for Saint Joseph’s Hospital, called Bulls “and said St. Jo was going to sponsor a 5K run and wanted McCuisiton to host a 15K bike ride and make it a biathlon.”
“Because of the competition back in those days, I said, ‘We are in,’” Bulls said. “I had never put together such an event, but I got with Dr. Ernie Cochran, Todd Wyatt – a former local Kimberly-Clark executive – and businessman Rick Dirks, and they held my hand through the first event with 36 riders.”
That year’s ride started at the Hunt Center at PJC, headed east on Clarksville Street to Loop 286, around the loop to Jefferson Road and down Jefferson back to the Hunt Center. Riders made the circuit twice.
A cycling club took over the Tour de Paris after Bulls chaired it the first few years. The American Heart Association took over for a time.
“Since it only made a marginal profit, the American Heart Assoc backed out of it and thankfully, the chamber/V&CC got involved and has been a tremendous sponsor and advocate of the ride ever since,” he said.
“For many years after the hospital passed the baton, we had a rest stop on FM 1497 and always had one of the best there was – not my words, but the riders who stopped. One year during the Olympics (I believe in 1992), we even fashioned a three step stand complete with Olympic rings for the riders to have their photos made.”