by nathan oster
A late surge in the number of riders and a scheduled performance by county music up-and-comer Luke Bell have put organizers of Saturday’s PEAKS to Conga event in an optimistic mood heading in their eighth annual fundraiser.
“We think it’s going to be a big year,” said Laurie (Parker) Stoelk, one of the driving forces behind the PEAKS effort. An acronym for People Everywhere Are Kind and Sharing, the nonprofit organization helps cancer patients living in the Big Horn Basin with their non-medical expenses.
To date, “well over $80,000” has been raised through PEAKS to Conga, she said.
Stoelk said the bike ride, which begins in Cody and ends in Shell, has averaged about 90 riders. This year, she expects more than 100. Even the record for the event, 112 riders, might be within reach, she said.
Riders who are interested in participating can sign up at eventbrite.com. The starting point is Cody Coffee Roasters (3001 Duggleby Drive). Departure time is 7 a.m. Several Greybull and Basin residents are planning to make the 66-mile trek. So, too, are a number of new riders. Stoelk said they’re coming from several different states; one rider hails from France.
A “Shellebration” follows the ride, with massage, music and yoga planned in the park adjacent to the Shell Community Hall.
Luke Bell and his band will take the stage around 7 p.m.
Bell grew up in the Big Horn Basin, and while he was raised and graduated from high school in Cody (in 2008), he has fond memories of the summers he spent working on the family ranch in Shell and hanging out with friends in Greybull.
Luke’s mother is Carol Bell and his grandparents are Stan and Mary Flitner of Shell.
According to his website, Bell writes his own material and is influenced by traditional American country music, ballads and folk songs. He has worked shows with Willie Nelson, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, Hank Williams Jr. and many others while also traveling to play events and festivals.
Tickets will be available at the door for $25. Kids 12 and under are free.
Food will be available for purchase. The Shell Commmunity Hall is fixing lasagna, salad and desserts. Stoelk said that while it’s meant to be for the riders, anything leftover after they’ve been served will be made available to the public. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children. Two food trucks will also be outside — one run by 307 Pizza of Cody, the other featuring Mexican food and belonging to Kathy Haley.
A silent auction, 50/50 drawing and bike raffle are also planned.
Stoelk said one new addition this year is the sale of tribute signs. Like the luminaries that are set out for Relay for Life events, the tribute signs honor “people who are battling against cancer right now or in memoriam for those who have died,” Stoelk said. They will be placed along the highway for the bike ride and outside the Shell Community Hall for the remainder of the day.
The best part of all, Stoelk said, is that in addition to being a fun community event, all of the money that is generated stays right here in the Big Horn Basin.
“It may not seem like much to you or me, but a $300 gas card to someone in the throes of cancer is not only a help to them monetarily, but it also shows them that people care and that they aren’t in the battle alone,” said Stoek.
In addition to gas cards, PEAKS has also provided grocery and even rent money for patients who are struggling to make ends meet. Patients who would like to apply for the assistance must do so through their physician or health care provider, said Stoelk.