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Cranksgiving still cranking but with fewer events because of pandemic

Published November 20, 2020
Annual food drive has half as many events as last year.

SANTA FE, N.M. (BRAIN) — The annual bicycle-inspired food drive known as Cranksgiving will have fewer events this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just over 50 events are scheduled in North America, compared to a record 112 last year with more than one million meals provided.

"Some organizers opted to sit this year out, and everyone in the grassroots community respects that decision," said Bill Lane, marketing director of distributor BTI. The Santa Fe-based distributor is the national Cranksgiving organizer.

Bicycle messenger Antonio Rodrigues created Cranksgiving as a pure street race, with grocery stores serving as checkpoints, in 1999. It has evolved with local organizers teaming with area charities to form a list of food needs. Routes to local grocery stores are mapped out for cyclists to follow and purchase food with their own money.

Lane said it was a challenge for cities and organizations participating this year.

"Organizing an event like this from isolation is downright tough," he said. "Zoom loses its luster after about the second call. There was no one-size fits all solution to figuring out what a COVID-style Cranksgiving should look like."

He said Eventbrite's COVID-19 Safety Playbook for Events was utilized as a how-to guide on keeping participants and volunteers safe.

"In the end, organizers customized their individual Cranksgivings to fit the situation on the ground in their areas," Lane said. "Naturally, some of the first things to go were the after parties and high-fives, Le Mans-style starts and instructions shouted from on high."

Some of the other changes this year's Cranksgiving participants have enacted include:

  • Online donations from sponsors and pre-registrations replacing indoor shopping.
  • Some organizers dropping the race component, making Cranksgiving into a do-it-yourself self-guided adventure.
  • Others choosing to have participants deliver non-perishable food items over the course of several days instead of a single day.

"Many organizers have been surprised by strong outcomes, both in the outpouring of generosity from their communities and record rider participation," Lane said. "Surprisingly, there were also several first-year Cranksgivings. This gives us a great deal of hope that when COVID subsides, Cranksgiving will continue to establish itself as a cyclists' holiday, city by city."

The weekend before Thanksgiving is the most popular timing for Cranksgiving events, said Lane, who added New York City's will be held for the 22nd consecutive year on Saturday. A complete list of cities participating can be found at

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