Text and Photos by Major Rogers

On Oct. 13, roughly 180 area residents pioneered something in Visalia and, as a result, the lives of other residents will be improved. What these people did was show up in front of the downtown Boling’s Barber Shop with their bikes.

The event was the brainchild of Evan Boling, downtown barber and inadver-tent community activist (although this is going to slightly agitate him when he sees that I wrote that). Last year, Evan created the Fun Ride. A group of about 50 showed up and we rode our bikes to Azul’s for drinks and afternoon lunch. The ride took us through downtown and the lush landscapes of the Green Acres area. The ride ended at Main Street’s BarrelHouse Brewing.

This year’s ride took us through the north side, and we parked our bikes at Tacos Lucha. Chris Gonzales, owner, community activist and ride participant, welcomed the group. “It’s all about community,” Chris says when I ask about the Fun Ride. “North, south, east, west, Visalians are here together having a good time.”

Which highlights the initial reason for the event. From Taco Lucha, we rode south on Encina Street, past some of Visalia’s historic and most beautiful homes, places that give pride about our hometown. The next destination was Blain Park on Court Street.

It was an impressive group of all ages, families and friends. Traffic seemed to gladly wait as the bikes passed by at the stop signs and even traffic lights; people waved and gawked at the procession.

Once at Blain Park, the group parked their bikes and gathered around the arbor for more fellowship.

New Belgium supplied donated beer for the riders. Pop and water were also available.

I came across rider Anthony Torres, who works at Costco and does real estate at Bloom Group, and found out that he quietly donated the funds required for the liquor license and rental space at the park. “That way, more money can go to the cause,” he said.

Oh, did I mention along the way of planning the day, it turned into an underground type of fundraiser that benefitted the Boys & Girls Club in Ivanhoe. Anthony tells the importance for kids to have after-school opportunities as he explains that he was part of the foster system for a while. “I didn’t always have it easy, so I like to help when I can.”

Evan had been talking to his friend Dustin Stewart, who serves on the youth club’s board. The dayroom after school fills up daily with children who seek the fun and refuge that the Boys & Girls Club provides. Evan set the unofficial goal to $2,500. Along with people just pitching in, he included a raffle for a customized low-rider bike that was quietly donated by Aaron Ashford, a barber at Boling’s and former area football standout.

When I asked Aaron, a man of action, not words, about his contribution, he just said, “It was fun,” and smiles big.

After about 45 minutes at Blain Park, the group rode back toward downtown, where we ended up at BarrelHouse to conclude the day. Once there, the attendees continued to eat and enjoy beer in the beautiful autumn weather. Nick Miller, of Miller Brothers Screenprinting, set up shop within the brewhouse and printed T-shirts to commemorate the day.