Aug. 9 Lake Max Triathlon a boon to local economy, service clubs, health

Jeff Kenney
Citizen editor

The signs are already appearing along the roadway for this Saturday morning's annual Lake Max Triathlon, which is expected to bring more than 400 participants, many of whom will be staying the weekend and in some cases, the entire week, in Culver.

That's an obvious boon to local businesses and the community at large, besides the entire event being a shared fund-raiser for local service clubs the Culver Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Culver Club of Culver, and Culver Boys & Girls Club (the latter will reap the proceeds of the kids' triathlon, which was added for the first time last year and has been a great success, says one of the triathlon's major organizers, Culver Academies Wellness director Dana Neer).

Those are good things to keep in mind when Culver's main thoroughfares are closed between 8:15 and 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning, including Lake Shore Drive between starting at State Road 10 at the north, and transitioning to Main Street down to Davis.

Volunteers will be monitoring cross-streets, which will certainly mean turning some drivers away, all in the name of safety for bicyclists heading through town for that portion of the event, which Neer notes was specifically structured in a counter-clockwise fashion "so the town won't stay closed for long."

"We just ask that people just kindly be polite; be good hosts," he says, adding the hope that people around the lake should keep a lookout for bicyclists when backing out of driveways and rounding curves.
"We're eager to have all our triathletes arrive in Culver and to show them we can host a wonderful time and have a wonderful event," he says.

The event includes bicycling around the lake, a running route, and swimming, with a paddleboard event added this year for those who prefer that water sport to swimming.

The kids' triathlon includes three waves, or heats, for kids are broken into age categories of 5 to 7, 8 to 10, and 11 to 12 years old. And recurring this year once more will be participation from members of the Culver Community High School and Culver Academies football teams assisting with the kids' event.

"We like those boys to do two things as part of their community volunteerism," says Neer. "We like them to line the course, so the Academy boys will line the bike course for the kids, and the Culver Community team will do the same thing for the run portion. We want them to be visual for the kids and cheer them on and help them feel good about themselves. At the end of the race the team captains will place medals around the kids' necks."

Vibrant participation in the kids' triathlon grows in part from the involvement in the endeavor by the staff and members of the Culver Boys & Girls Club.

"We have tried to engage in health and wellness as a whole," Neer explains. "One is the (springtime, annual) Max Move and another is the triathlon. It seems during the summer program they can incorporate this a little more and can actually walk and run, take bike rides, and swim. You put them all together and Viola! You can be a triathlete.

"There's an endearing picture of 20 to 25 bikes lined up outside the (Culver Elementary) building. So even if they don't participate in the triathlon they're doing good things for themselves."

"Every year we've gotten better (regarding volunteer staffing)," Neer says. "Our volunteers are always exuberant to show we're here and to help each athlete be successful."

Neer also expresses appreciation for "our civil servants -- (Culver town marshal) Wayne Bean and his staff, the State Police, the dive team, lifeguards, EMTs. These folks and the countless number of people who help and bring everybody in. We could not do this without their endorsement."

That said, there are still opportunities for interested volunteers, specifically for anyone interested in helping sweep and otherwise clean the streets a few days before the triathlon.

Perennially popular are the after-race festivities for participants and volunteers, including food and drinks provided by local restaurants (Culver's Evil Czech Brewery, for example, is providing a beer garden for adult participants and root beer for the kids), live music supported by John and Carol Zeglis, massages offered, and more.

"After the race people like to linger and enjoy the lake and each other's company," Neer says, adding the committee likes the athletes to mingle with the volunteers.

And one of the longstanding goals of the committee from the start has been the prosperity of Culver's business community, he notes.

"Many people come in Friday night and eat at our restaurants. And many of those have specials related to the event. The town park is having a band Friday night and should have a number of people down there enjoying that."

The event committee, adds Neer, wants the community to "embrace the event and be thankful. We'd like people to cheer (athletes) on from their front lawns, like a parade. The bike riders and runners love that little motivation in the race."