East Texas’ premier cycling event is celebrating a big birthday with a big party.
The Garland L. Parise Pineywoods Purgatory is marking its 25th anniversary with a ride-and-play weekend beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center in Lufkin. After the ride, the Expo Center will host a beer garden with live music and fajitas, and participants with tickets are invited to Lufkin’s Bistro at 7 p.m. in downtown Lufkin.
The popular autumn weekend event features four biking routes of 25, 52, 72 and 102 miles through some of the most scenic rural areas in East Texas, and proceeds benefit the Stubblefield Learning Center, a high-performance, non-traditional school for at-risk students.
“Cyclists can get serious about tracking progress,” said Burt Hairgrove, director of the George H. Henderson, Jr. Exposition Center. “A quarter of a century is big milestone for Pineywoods Purgatory, so we’re working hard to make this year especially memorable for everyone involved. We have plenty of volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, and we need the community to pitch in to make this the biggest, most well-organized Purgatory ever.”
The Exposition Center serves as the hub of Pineywoods Purgatory, with cyclist-friendly amenities including plentiful parking near the starting area, 50 full RV hookups, camping spaces, spacious restrooms and on-site showers. The weekend begins with registration from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Exposition Center, and participants will receive discount cards to a local restaurant for last-minute carbo-loading.
The race begins with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Saturday, and cyclists can choose from a 25-mile route through gently rolling hills, a more challenging 52-mile route through lush forests, the popular 72-mile route that takes riders through three different counties, and a 102-mile route that lets experienced cyclists see some of the quaint hamlets of East Texas from a whole new perspective. SAG wagons are available to assist cyclists who encounter problems, and volunteers man rest stops along each route.
“Rest stops are important to riders, and they give local businesses a chance to show off a bit,” Hairgrove said. “We need businesses to sponsor and man the rest stops, and we make sure to keep things fun. We have contests for theme, hospitality and best overall, and the winners get trophies. It’s a great way to extend Lufkin hospitality to every aspect of the event.”
That hospitality is important to keep cyclists coming back to Pineywoods Purgatory every year, and also to entice them to visit Lufkin for other events, said Tara Watson-Watkins, executive director, Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“Cyclists come from all over Texas to ride in Pineywoods Purgatory,” Watson-Watkins said. “The cyclists come for a well-organized event, fun routes and beautiful scenery. Our job is to wow them with hospitality and leave them wanting to come back for more! That’s why we’ve paired this race with Lufkin’s Bistro. What better way to end an action-packed weekend than with a relaxing night of great food and drinks?”
Lufkin’s Bistro, a wine-, beer- and food-tasting event on the downtown streets, is celebrating its sixth year. The event sells out every year, so East Texans should keep an eye on visitlufkin.com to learn when tickets go on sale.
Pineywoods Purgatory registration is $40 until September 15. For riders outside of the Lufkin-Diboll-Nacogdoches area, early registration guarantees a ticket, if the rider wishes to purchase, to Lufkin’s Bistro for the reduced price of $30. Discounts for Lufkin’s Bistro are part of a Stay-and-Play package for our out-of-town guests. After September 15, registration is $45 and Lufkin’s Bistro tickets can be added for $30 a ticket until the event sells out if you are outside of the Lufkin-Diboll-Nacogdoches area.
Registration for Pineywoods Purgatory includes a T-shirt, a meal after the ride and other goodies. Groups of five or more registering together can call 936-637-3976 for a group discount. For registration details, visit pineywoodspurgatory.com or visitlufkin.com.