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Tour de Fat, a 'Mardi Gras on Bicycles,' Rides Again

 Images from previous years at the Chicago Tour de Fat.
Chicago Tour de Fat
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LOGAN SQUARE — New Belgium Brewing's Tour de Fat will return to Logan Square this Saturday offering its usual smorgasbord of "beer, bikes and bemusement."

As in past years, the event will start with a bike parade that will step off from Palmer Square at Kedzie Avenue and Palmer Street at 11 a.m. then return after a 5-mile jaunt around the neighborhood.

West Town Bikes' Garth Katner described the parade as more "show and tell" than a tour, with participants dressed in costumes and riding vintage bikes, tall bikes, bicycle floats and all manner of "frankenbikes."

"It's very much like Mardi Gras on bicycles," Katner said.

The tour will then return to Palmer Square with five hours of entertainment including punk rock marching band Mucca Pazza, comedian Reggie Watts and a variety of other "Cirque de Soleil- and Vaudevillian-style performances," according to New Belgium's Tour de Fat operations manager, Paul Gruber.

There will also be food and plenty of New Belgium brews at $5 a pour.

All proceeds will benefit West Town Bikes, a Humboldt Park nonprofit organization that promotes bicycle riding across the city with affordable bikes for under-served communities, and youth programs such as Earn a Bike, which allows kids to learn bike mechanics by helping fix up bikes until they put in enough shop time to build their own bike for free.

Last year's Tour de Fat attracted some 6,000 attendees and raised $26,000 for West Town Bikes' programs.

"This is New Belgium's way of reaching out to the bike communities across the country," Katner said. "It really is a great deal."

Among other attractions at this year's Tour de Fat will be a slow bike race, giant Jenga and Connect Four, and a "wedding" ceremony in which someone will "divorce" his or her car and "marry" a bicycle.

The lucky bride or groom will donate their car to charity and swear off driving. In exchange, New Belgium will give them a stipend to buy a commuter bike.

"There's going to be interactive fun like that throughout the day," Gruber said.

A full schedule of events can be found at the Chicago Tour de Fat website.

And for Katner, a big part of the fun is just meeting other bicycle enthusiasts.

"It's a celebration of bike culture and its also a great way to see the diversity of bicyclists in Chicago," he said.