The 2nd annual Marquette Trails Fest is taking over Marquette — or at least Marquette Mountain, the festival’s operations center and the starting point for its bike races — on June 26-28. It’s the latest in a long line of bike-friendly outdoor festivals, like Superior Bike Festival and Bike Jam, in our neck of the woods.
“Though other festivals have come and gone, we’re confident we’ve found the formula for a sustainable, large-scale event that people come to year after year,” says Nic Dobbs, event director. “As they’re driving home on the 28th, we want attendees to be marking their calendars and clearing their schedules for next year.”
The Marquette Trails Festival definitely has an ambitious lineup. The event features wall-to-wall programming from early evening on Friday to late afternoon on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
The festival kicks off at 4:30 pm. At 5:30 pm, young riders hit the Kids’ Slalom, a pulse-pounding downhill course; adult riders follow up at 6:30 pm for the same event. Also at 6:30: a guided hike along the North Country Trail, which passes near the festival grounds. 8:30 pm brings a bonfire with hot dogs and s’mores, followed by the can’t-miss premiere of unReal, an Anthill Films production that’s “required viewing for any downhill biking enthusiast,” says Dobbs.
Saturday features a full lineup of heavy-duty events. The half-marathon starts at 8 am, followed by two cross-country races (long and short) at 12 and 12:30 pm, respectively. At 4 pm, downhill racers gather at the top of Marquette Mountain for a timed, no-holds-barred whoosh down the hill. (“The downhill race is probably the most aggressive event at the festival,” says Dobbs.)
At 8 pm, after the dust (or mud) has settled, the lodge at Marquette Mountain hosts an awards ceremony and blowout party. “We’re expecting as many as 300 attendees for that,” says Dobbs.
Much of the festival’s kid-friendly programming happens on Sunday. There’s a 1.5-mile kids’ run at 10 am, a 3-mile youth mountain bike race at 11 am, and plenty of family fun throughout. The festival wraps up with a final awards ceremony at 3:30 pm, setting the stage for a repeat performance next year.
Also of note on Sunday: the Enduro race, the companion event to Saturday’s downhill event. Enduro participants have three hours to complete four timed downhill stages, which vary from 2 to 15 minutes in par completion time, and travel between the stages on their bikes.
“Enduro is a bit more relaxed than straight downhill racing,” says Dobbs, “since you can take your time getting back uphill, and many riders form groups for a more social experience.”
For serious mountain bikers, the downhill and enduro races have special meaning: They’re the opening salvos in the Lake Superior Gravity Series, a season-long series featuring four downhill and six enduro races on courses across the Upper Peninsula (plus one outside Duluth). Cyclists accumulate points on a performance-based scale, with winners and runners-up crowned at the end of the season. If you’re serious about completing the Gravity Series this year, you can’t miss the Marquette Trails Festival!
Also important to note: Attendees need to pay to register for the events they plan to attend, with steep discounts for early registration. That said, all Trails Fest proceeds go towards the Noquemanon Trail Network’s annual trailbuilding campaign. In other words, each and every festival attendee has a direct, positive impact on the quality of Marquette County’s already-amazing trail system.
Ultimately, says Dobbs, the goal is to put Marquette County’s outdoor recreation assets on the map. He encourages every Trails Fest participant to “spread the word” by posting photos, videos and updates on social media.
“The future here is all about recreation,” he says, “and we’re excited to be a part of that.”