FULTON, Ill. — Fulton’s annual Blessing of the Bikes will once again take place on Fourth Street, in the heart of the downtown business district.

But the issue, which was decided by the Fulton City Council on Monday night, was met with opposing feelings from Fulton business owners and residents.

Larry Leonard had attended a previous council meeting to appeal the council’s decision to have the event on Third Street instead of Fourth Street. At the time, Leonard informed the council that the event recently was featured in “Biker Magazine,” a national publication. The matter was placed on Monday’s agenda for a decision to be made.

Julie Meiners, founder of the 19-year-old event, attended the meeting and presented her side to the council. She began by outlining her primary reasons for wanting the event to be on Fourth Street.

Meiners said one main reason is that her father, who performs the actual blessing of the bikes, is getting older and has difficulty with overheating. She said Fourth Street has a great deal more shade for him to stand in if he needs it. Also, having the bikes lined in the road with him walking between while blessing them allows it to move a little faster.

Meiners said she also simply feels the event should be on Fourth Street to feature downtown Fulton.

“I love to use the backdrop of downtown Fulton and it’s convenient and it’s a beautiful backdrop,” said Meiners. She said after 19 years, the Blessing of the Bikes is just as much of a community event as a homecoming parade, a car show, Dutch Days or any other event for which the streets are closed.

“I ask one day out of the year, Sunday, for approximately three hours, at this time to do this blessing and I hope we continue to have this. It is a good event. It brings in a lot of people who spend money in our restaurants. They come and eat. They stay in our hotels. They buy gas in our gas stations. They drink and eat in our establishments,” said Meiners.

Meiners said the event brings in a good deal of revenue and not only during the blessing itself. She said people visiting Fulton for the Blessing of the Bikes also return to visit Fulton’s various businesses.

“I don’t think you have one vote here opposed to this event. Everybody is supportive of this event,” said Fourth Ward Alderman Ron Roels, adding, “I think the main issue is whether we do this on Third Street or whether we do it on Fourth Street.”

Meiners said the lack of parking spaces and shade on Third Street makes the move a safety issue. She said the road needs to be closed due to the families with small children who will visit the event to look at all the motorcycles. She said the street only would be closed from noon to 3 p.m. and could be opened sooner, depending how long the blessing takes.

Business owner Wendy Ottens said she is excited to have the Blessing of the Bikes in Fulton to bring more people to her business. She said the event should be extended the same rights that other events have been given.

“If we do this for one, we have to do it for everyone. It’s just fair. And I’m looking forward to them coming,” said Ottens.

Not everyone, however, agreed the event should be on Fourth Street. Business owner Susan May said a large part of her business comes from the fact she is open on Sundays.

She said she feels this street closure would prevent her from doing business as usual.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to block the road for a bike blessing when they have the privilege of going on Third Street and putting them all together,” said May.

“I’m in favor like Ron and everybody else of having it. But I still think for the businesses that want to stay open, it’d be best to move to Third Street,” said Second Ward Alderman Charlie Letcher.

“I think it’s mainly an issue of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and I think it’s a matter of showcasing the downtown a little bit more and Third Street doesn’t do that,” said Roels.

Fourth Ward Alderman Bill Loerop suggested the Blessing of the Bikes be held on Fourth Street this year as a test to see if the event does cause businesses any problems.

On a vote of 5 to 3, the council agreed the Blessing of the Bikes will be from noon to 3 p.m. June 7 on Fourth Street. Meiners said to help local businesses, she will list Fulton businesses open that day on the Blessing of the Bikes fliers, encouraging people to support them.

This Week's Circulars