Hundreds of bike riders and trail walkers lined up inside the Mission Park Pavilion Saturday morning for the Tour De Las Misiones Bike Ride, 5K, and 10K walk. The excursions were a part of this year’s World Heritage Festival, which celebrates the UNESCO World Heritage site status of the five Spanish Colonial Missions.

Participants were led around the historic missions and back to the park for the food, music, and dancing prepared for the Mission Pachanga event, a day long party celebrating the culture of San Antonio with live performances and vendors selling works of art and other local crafts.

“The main thing is we want to get people engaged and connected with the missions,” said Cristian Sandoval, founder of Earn a Bike Co-op and one of the organizers for the event. He served as the morning’s master of ceremonies, throwing bursts of confetti above bikers and walkers at the starting line.

Riders varied from veteran cyclists mounted on road bikes, to B-Cyclers, to families that rode along with children tucked into little trailers behind them. All coasted in procession for the morning’s social ride that could lead them to either all, or some of the missions.

“By putting together an event such as this that allows you to visit all of the missions in one day, it’s something you don’t do everyday,” Sandoval said.

The processions made stops at the missions, and historians that rode along with the groups explained historical significance of the missions.

“The historians tell the story,” Sandoval said. “At every single stop you will have a historian that is going to be talking a little bit about each of the missions. They will explain why they’re there and what happened there.”

Unlike other rides that sometimes feature speed competitions, the social aspect of the ride allowed for cyclists to connect with one another. Lyssa Ochoa is a vascular surgeon in San Antonio who has participated in the ride for the last three years.

“It’s different than your typical ride where you go and you race and try to ride as fast as you can,” Ochoa said. “Here you sit and you get to talk to the cyclist next to you. It’s a way that brings the community together, and you get to know people from all over San Antonio. That’s a unique environment.”

Walkers traveling alongside the banks of the San Antonio River were also given a tour guide that shared information about the river and its surrounding environment.

“The walk as well is connecting people to the river and making sure that people find out things that they probably didn’t know,” Sandoval said. “By having a tour guide take you through all of these places, that’s kind of an extra advantage.”

The Cruff family told the Rivard Report that they were able to familiarize themselves more with San Antonio through their bike ride. The family of five recently moved to the city from Michigan and were out on their bikes for exploration.

“I found out that the bell rings for a really long time,” said Claire Cruff, speaking about their experiences at one of the missions. Each wore a medal around their necks that depicted Mission San José with ‘World Heritage Festival 2017’ inscribed below.

Medals are given to all participants of the World Heritage Tour de las Misiones bike ride.
Medals are given to all participants of the World Heritage Tour de las Misiones bike ride. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“We made one medal after Mission San José, and every year we’re going to make one after the other missions,” Sandoval said. “So if you participate in all five events you’ll collect the five missions.”

As riders returned from their tours they were met with bowls of charro beans and rice. Legally aged riders could also enjoy cans of beer upon their return.

Inside the pavilion a stage featured groups such as Chulita Vinyl Club, Grupo Frackaso, Piñata ProtestEva Ybarra, and Los De Esta Noche that performed music throughout the day. Vendors sold items such as screen prints, paintings, jewelry, and other trinkets.

The 2017 World Heritage Festival ends tomorrow with a celebratory mass at Mission Concepción at 10 a.m. To find out more, click here.

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.