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Indiana-centric Five in 50 bike ride to celebrate fitting anniversary

Covered bridges and small towns feature prominently in the Willkie Days FIVE in 50 in Rush County, Indiana. (WISH Photo/Drew Blair)

RUSHVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Five is an important number for an annual bicycle ride celebrating Rush County’s history and pride among residents.

The Willkie Days FIVE in 50 invites cyclists each year to traverse a marked 50-mile course through five rural Indiana towns and across five historic covered bridges.

On Saturday, the event will be hosted for the fifth time from downtown Rushville.

The bike ride is a central feature of the city’s Willkie Days celebration that honors Wendell Willkie. The Elwood native used Rushville as a political home and headquarters for a U.S. presidential campaign in 1940.

Organizers explained on the event’s website that Willkie’s grandson, David Willkie, developed and organized FIVE in 50 as a way to honor his late mother, Virginia, who was an avid bicyclist in Rush County.

David Willkie, a bicyclist and endurance athlete himself, has political ties of his own. He served as a staff member for former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana.

Bicyclists were scheduled to begin Saturday morning as part of a parade that steps off from Rushville Elementary School. Police will escort the riders to lead the festivities in front of spectators lining streets in downtown Rushville. Riders can choose to complete 12-mile, 24-mile or 50-mile routes. The longest of the three options will take the cyclists through the towns of Milroy, Moscow, Gowdy, Homer and Arlington.

While the ride is not competitive or timed, the towns involved are competing to provide the riders’ most-favored sag stop. Food, beverages and mechanical needs are provided at such rest stops throughout long-distance bike rides.

Covered bridges will not only be scenic highlights of the route but also beneficiaries of money raised as part of the event. Organizers will split proceeds between the preservation of Rush County’s covered bridges and other historic sites, and organizations supported by the Rush County United Fund.

The FIVE in 50 and Willkie Days Parade were scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Ride participants were invited to join community members in relaxing following the physical activity with live music. The weekend’s celebration will include a free concert at Rushville Riverside Park Amphitheater featuring Pink Droyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band.

Rushville is about an hour’s drive southeast of downtown Indianapolis.