Saturday Jul. 3, Aaron Tubergen stood with his team, bikes mounted, in front of the winners’ pedestals at the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston. Originating from Memphis, several of the Marx Bensdorf team members have made the trek down from Tennessee every year.
“The team has been coming here for a while,” Tubergen said. “It’s kind of like a team priority race. So some of the faster guys have been coming down here for a long time.”
“This is one of the slower categories, so kind of like the newer racers, we all came down to kind of learn,” Tubergen said.
The interview was cut short as the announcer blairs his name over the loudspeaker. Tubergen made his way through his cheering teammates to take his place on the top pedestal as winner of the category 4-5 race.
North Little Rock, Arkansas based Tanner Ward with the First Internet Bank Cycling claimed the Men Pro 1 race while Harriot Owen of Instafund Racing out of Vancouver, BC took first place in the Women’s Pro 1/2 race division.
The Sunny King Criterium is paired with Piedmont Criterium in the same weekend, with Sunny King Criterium claiming the fifth stop on the cyclists’ Professional Road Tour of 2021. Sparklight and Alabama Power sponsored a 9 hour live stream of the event.
Sunny King Automotive Group has been sponsoring the Criterium for nineteen years strong. With the race being sandwiched next to the Noble Street Festival, each year makes for one action packed celebration for visitors and locals alike.
Sunny King Toyota has sponsored a super cool Kid Zone every year that featured free activities for kids such as carnival rides, a mechanical bull, kids activities, and much more.
Vernon Thomas, the general manager of Sunny King Toyota, was there Saturday at their booth loaded down with merch and goodies for festival goers.
“This is always a good weekend,” Thomas said. “Weather is perfect today. The kids zone, for all the kids, is free today. All the rides. All the food. The vendors. It’s always good.”
The general atmosphere of the festival glowed with an aromatic vibe of summer heat and a normalcy that hasn’t been seen since the days pre-COVID. Kids ran with sticky faces covered in bubble gum flavored snow cone syrup instead of medical grade face masks.
The main stage was jamming out with the hour’s featured band; spectators growing to enjoy the summer sounds.
Bill Williams with Combat Park was positioned at the Wounded Warrior Way with all his crew and gear.
Combat Park brought out all the stops, bringing in their tanks, mini tanks, free paintball, and more! One festival goer squealed in delight nearby as Williams helped her down as she climbed out of a tank.
Down the way in the kid’s zone, Amanda Currie with the Junior League of Anniston Calhoun was helping a little girl pick out a tomato plant to take home. She guided the girl as she lifted the plant out of its original container into a new one and covered the base of the plant with soil.
Currie said she had been coming to the Noble Street Festival with the Junior League of Anniston Calhoun (JLAC) since she began in the league in 2017, but the league had been coming for many years prior.
Currie said in her experience she has seen the kids get excited about growing things.
“The best part is when they take pictures of them planting them and a couple of years later, they’ll come back, and on our facebook page they’ll be like ‘Look at my tomato plant!’ and it’s like huge and got all the tomatoes on it,” Currie said.
Bringing the community together is what joining these two events is about. Every year, the Sunny King Criterium brings in teams from all over the country to compete, and the Noble Street Festival is a great way to bring spectators to the event and to get people outside to meet other members of the community.