Waseca is spotlighted this year for hundreds of cyclists touring Minnesota towns. (County News file photo)

Waseca is in the spotlight this year for hundreds of cyclists coming to town, visiting local attractions and businesses as they prepare for a ride around the area.

Bicycling Around Minnesota begins and ends its tour in Waseca this year. Taking off from the city Aug. 18, the riders go to New Ulm, Springfield and Madelia before cycling back to Waseca Aug. 21.

Bicycling Around Minnesota, or BAM, is a nonprofit organization "with a focus on highlighting Minnesota communities to an ever growing bicycling audience," according to the organization's website.

Waseca is highlighted this year at a time when many discussions at Waseca City Council and Economic Development Authority meetings have focused on the city's need to sell and promote itself.

The tour, which began in 2006, works to promote bicycling as transportation, the bikeways system in the state, and Share the Road, a Minnesota Department of Transportation bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign. In addition to these goals, the ride spotlights Minnesota towns as cyclists move through them and visit key sites.

"One of our goals is to promote tourism," said this year's tour director Mary Derks. "What we look for — and what riders have said sets our ride apart — is the attractions of these communities."

Drawing riders from all over to discover Waseca is a significant goal for this year's event.

"There are lots of different attractions for riders, and this helps to promote the community," said Derks.

The ride this year brings hundreds of cyclists to the area to engage with some of these attractions. Upon arriving in town, these riders are given a day to explore the community.

Riders visiting town are encouraged to take a warm-up ride around Clear Lake, walk along the lake shore, cool off at the Waseca Waterpark, explore local businesses, visit the Waseca Art Center and Waseca County Historical Society or play golf at Lakeside Golf.

Every year, the ride features a small- to mid-sized town like Waseca. The organization looks for a variety of things to decide on a town, such as available lodging and well-maintained roads. Points of interest for visitors are a key consideration.

"Waseca is a nice town," Derks said of the decision to spotlight Waseca this year. "It's very pretty."

There was also eager local participation for the organization to work with.

"From the moment we called the economic development coordinator, he was very enthusiastic and went right to work," said Derks.

Riders will also stop off at Waseca-based agricultural interpretive center Farmamerica to explore some farming history.

"We're excited to be in these communities," Derks said. "There are going to be some great town attractions along the way."

Reporter Jacob Stark can be reached at 837-5451 or follow him on Twitter @WCNjacob.

Covering Waseca, Janesville, and New Richland.

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