Fruita’s eclectic vibe draws cyclists

Ed Marandola and seven of his friends traveled from Philadelphia to attend the Fat Tire Festival this weekend in Fruita. He said he’s interested in buying a fat tire bike at a cost of $3,000 to $4,000 while he’s here.

Any doubts that the trails around Fruita have become a mountain biking mecca and an economic driver should be laid to rest in light of this weekend’s Fat Tire Festival.

Hundreds of people took to trails in the Grand Valley and wandered about downtown Fruita for the event in its 18th year.

Some of the festival’s success can be attributed to the area’s allure, said Marty Gotantas. Seven years ago, he bought a home in Fruita and lives there in the spring and fall — when mountain biking is best — and spends the rest of the year at his home in Dillon.

“Probably 80 percent of the people you see here are from out of town,” he said as people with that glowing, just-got-off-my-mountain-bike look and still decked in high-performance clothing wandered past stalls of bikes with hefty price tags. “It’s a big influx of people. It’s been discovered by everybody, kind of like how Moab was 10 to 15 years ago.”

Ed Marandola, who lives south of Philadelphia, traveled to Fruita with seven friends, all of whom spent $1,500 each on the four-day, all-inclusive tour package, a price that didn’t include airfare.

Marandola was eyeing a fat tire bicycle made by 9: Zero :7 of Ogden, Utah, which was selling in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. He thought the bike would be a good way to stay in shape by riding it on the sand at his beach house in New Jersey.

“I’m likely going to buy it,” Marandola said as he left to meet up with his group.

Last year’s numbers indicated more than 1,000 people poured into Fruita, pumping more than $500,000 into the local economy and attracting folks in the 30-to-50 age range who stayed an average of 2 1/2 days, event organizers said.

Friends Jeremiah Wendell, 34, of Summit County, and Jeff Beacom, 34, of Avon, arrived for the day to ride and later drink beer and relax in the sun “because there’s still snow in Summit County,” Wendell said.

They estimated spending $50 on food at the Hot Tomato Cafe, $60 at Over the Edge Sports and $30 for beer. Beacom also bought a T-shirt for his niece, who soon turns 1.

“We came for the riding and stayed for the festival,” Beacom said.

Aileen Bay of Denver had a rather unique Fat Tire Festival story. She and seven others, mostly women, for years have made the annual trek to Fruita’s festival to bike and party.

“We’re hard-core chicks,” she said, pausing. “Kind of.”

One of Bay’s friends met her future husband at the festival and another friend met the man she is now dating. They stay in local hotels and go out to eat. On Friday night, they ate at Suds Brothers Brewery, the same place where her friend met her future husband when the restaurant was the Fruita Brewing Co.

Bay said she is drawn to Fruita’s eclectic vibe, and her money seems to go further in Fruita than in Denver.

“Splurging here is like a drop in the bucket,” she said.


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