For more than three decades, bicyclists from around the globe have circled the perimeter of Tucson for the annual El Tour de Tucson.
We know El Tour de Tucson to be a massive cycling event that happens each year hosted by nonprofit Perimeter Bicycling Association. What you may not know is that each year, Perimeter hosts a coinciding expo to welcome riders. More than 6,000 cyclists are signed up for the big race on Saturday.
This year, though, the expo has been reimagined into an event for everyone to enjoy — even if you don’t have the slightest interest in bicycling.
“For 38 years, (El Tour) has been one of the iconic rides in the Southwest, in Tucson for sure, and maybe even the west overall, with thousands of people cycling,” says Steve Rivera, who is the editor of El Tour's publication Tailwinds. “Two years ago, we had some changeover, and we moved the event outside to Armory Park and you realized that’s how people loved it.
“Thousands were downtown and enjoyed the day, rode their bikes, stayed for the events and music. This year, it’s going to be even better — I say that with no hyperbole. It’s not going to be just for cyclists. If you need something to do and don’t even have a thought about cycling, it’s still going to be a lot of fun.”
Rivera calls this year’s expo “bicycling and more.”
Here are all the non-cycling things to expect at the free 2021 El Tour de Tucson expo, which takes over Armory Park this Thursday through Saturday.
Try an exclusive beer from Ten55 Brewing
For the first time ever, El Tour tapped a local brewery to offer an exclusive beer at the expo.
The expo will feature a beer garden, complete with a special blood orange IPA from Ten55 Brewing Co.
“They’re excited, we’re excited,” Rivera says. “Cyclists love a beer after a ride and this is the perfect, ideal marriage between them and us.”
There’s no admission fee to get into the beer garden, which will also offer a number of other options from Ten55 including beer, wine, hard seltzers and soft drinks.
The beer garden opens at noon on Thursday and Friday, and 10 a.m. on Saturday.
‘The taste of Tucson’
The expo will feature seven food vendors offering different cuisines — Rivera calls it “the taste of Tucson.”
Food vendors include El Taco Rustico for Mexican food, Los Chiquilines for aguas frescas, Takoyaki Balls for Japanese food, Mariscos Chihuahua for seafood, Greater Faith Word Church for barbecue, Just Churros, and Cody Coyote Kettle Corn.
For the kids
Pop into the expo from noon to 3 p.m. on Friday and catch USA Cycling’s Kid’s Skills Clinic, where Olympic athletes — including cyclist Mari Holden — will chat with kids about bicycle safety and healthy lifestyles.
“It’s a big deal,” Rivera says. “I don’t think we’ve ever had that.”
Each safety chat is an hour long, starting at the top of each hour until 3 p.m.
The programming is part of USA Cycling’s “Let’s Ride” initiative to get more kids on bikes. The first 100 kids at the clinic will get free helmets and T-shirts.
A CEMEX cement truck will also be at the expo from noon to 3 p.m. on Friday, giving kids the chance to sit in the truck and experience what drivers see, as a way to further promote road safety.
“(The expo) is going to be more kid-friendly,” Rivera says. “And it’s not that we weren’t kid-friendly before, but kids love bikes and they’ll be downtown. We want them to be active and enjoy the day as well.”
The Children’s Museum Tucson — located across the street from the expo at Armory Park — will offer free admission on Saturday, courtesy of El Tour.
Listen to live music from 3 local bands
Three bands will perform at the three-day expo, including Badlands, Gigi & the Glow and Maasman Band.
“We’ve had a single band on Saturday for the event, but now we have three great bands that will entertain people who want to go down there and have some drinks,” Rivera says.
See the performance schedule below:
Several exhibitors will be at the event, from nonprofits and El Tour’s sponsors to cyclist shops and #ThisIsTucson! We’ll be selling merch and giving away free stickers and water bottles.
“It’s not just about cycling,” Rivera says of the expo. “It’s going to be more colorful, more energetic — it’s going to be a different, cool feel. It’s not that it was bad in the past — it wasn’t, it was fantastic — but here, (people can) stick around and eat and drink and listen to the bands.”
If you go
What: El Tour de Tucson Expo and Fiesta
When: Thursday-Friday, Nov. 18-19, noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 20, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The official El Tour race kicks off Saturday morning.
Cost: The expo is free to attend and open to the public
More info: eltourdetucson.org