By Rebecca Jones

While showers blanketed a vast portion of Sussex County on Saturday, May 4, they mostly held off for the 20th annual Bike Rally, held at Trap Pond Park. It has been the longest running fundraiser that Trap Pond Partners has faithfully held for the benefit of programs and improvements at Trap Pond Park. When asked about this long-standing event, all pointed to Betty Grossmann – past Trap Pond Partner President and organizer of the bike rally. When asked about her accomplishments through the years, she pointed around at the volunteers who scurried here and there, setting up for the event and said, “I can’t take all of the credit. We’re all a team. We couldn’t do all of this without each other.”

Because the event is weather dependent, there weren’t the usual 100 to 120 participants as in previous years. However, those who participated expressed excitement to be there. A father-son duo – Landon and Brandon Elliott of Gumboro – were embarking on their first bike rally this year. They heard about it when they attended the Nature Fest held at Trap Pond Park a few weeks ago. They decided to stay at the campground with their family, then participate in the rally that morning. Son Landon said he looked forward to it because he “just likes riding my bike,” while father Brandon said he enjoys “spending some time with my son.”

Participants await the cannon blast that marks the start of the annual bike rally at Trap Pond Park. Photo by Rebecca Jones

Chris Simon arrived with his bike, yet experienced a snafu. His chain came loose from the sprocket, got caught in a crevice on the bike, and then a link twisted so that he could not ride his bike in the rally. However, because of the free bike rental program that Trap Pond Partners set up at Trap Pond, he was able to “rent” a bike from the shed and still participate in the rally. At the bike shed, YCC kids operate the shed, learn how to repair bikes of all sizes, makes and models, and then interact with the public that wish to utilize the program.

Andy Irwin said he has participated in the rally for seven years, while his friend – Jack Waggoner – has been riding for nine. While Waggoner said he had to “count the tee shirts” to really determine how many years he’s ridden, Irwin joked he hoped to acquire enough shirts “to have a quilt made.” They then pointed in the direction of Kimberly Whaley, plus their wives Sally Irwin and Karen Waggoner, and said that they have been participating longer than the both of them.

The three ladies have participated in the rally since 2009. Kimberly Whaley said she was impressed with the Bald Cypress Center, and how it is basically a showplace of the area. The ladies all mentioned the striking view from the event room. Sally Irwin said she grew up in Laurel, learned to swim at the beach at Trap Pond Park. “This is Delaware’s State Park,” she said. She noted the changes, yet said, “It’s kept its natural feel. It’s still beautiful, but better.” She and her company noted that if not for the late Senator Robert Venables, the many improvements to the park would never have happened.

As the time grew closer, Fred Johnson was practicing setting off his mini cannon – a feature that has become the tradition for each Bike Rally. Johnson explained that the tiny cannons use calcium carbide – “what the miners used to use” – added to water creates the “boom” sound.  Families, friends, and individuals all lined up at the starting line, ready to traverse the scenic “Bob Trail” – renamed after Venables – replacing the former name, “Loblolly Trail.” Because a mist began to fall upon the park, riders were warned to be careful – especially on the bridge in the middle portion of the trail. The one-minute mark was noted. Then, after the “BOOM” of the mini-cannon, the riders were off, blazing the trail for the two-decades old event.

Tony Windsor started to entertain those left behind. Prizes lined the tables in anticipation of those coming back from the trail. Current Trap Pond Partners President Chris Cline busily surveyed the surroundings to make sure everything ran up to par. He said Trap Pond Partners became an official non-profit entity in 2000, and their mission is to help take on projects to improve and enhance the park in areas where the park itself does not receive funding.

For example, he said the first year, they helped build the playground. They helped make the bike rental shed possible. They’ve helped with handicapped kayak launches, and this year, they paid to have spigots in the D loop of the campground made frost free so that people can camp at Trap Pond Park year-round. While he lives in Rehoboth with his husband, Cline said he grew up in Laurel and still has a connection to the area.

Even though the Bike Rally is a fundraiser, Trap Pond Partners said they wish to make it affordable to all who want to participate: $10 per person, or $25 per family of any size. Those who pre-register are given a free tee-shirt. Those who register the day of the event may be given a shirt, but shirt sizes are not assured, as those shirts are given to day-of participants on a “first come, first served” basis. Raffles, concessions and live music is then enjoyed by attendees following the event.

Cline said the next big event the Trap Pond Partners will host will be the Beer, Wine and Spirits Festival, held the fourth Saturday in September. To find out more about the mission of Trap Pond Partners, its events, or to volunteer, go to