Twilight Invades Downtown Athens

            As if Athens residents and college students needed a reason to flood the downtown area on the weekend, Twilight will invade the Classic City Friday, providing justification, yet again, for an evening out on the town.


This year’s event marks the 30th annual Twilight, a display which has evolved into more than a bike race.


“We look forward to this every year,” said Blair Barrett, a senior majoring in Finance. “I would put it up there with St. Patrick’s Day, Marti Gras or anything else that comes to mind that gets people out and about.”


Twilight has evolved into a festival of fun, capitalizing on the interest drawn by the cycling by including a jazz festival, film festival and a myriad of other attractions.


“There is something for everybody to enjoy,” said Tyler Estep, a sports writer for the Red & Black. “I respect cycling, but I’m not a big fan. But I still go out every year to enjoy the music and all the hoopla.”


The jazz festival, the 2nd annual, will bring top national musicians together with local artists.


“Currently, there is no other comparable jazz festival in the state of Georgia that combines the educational and community elements and is open to both vocal and instrumental groups,” said Mitos Andaya, Festival Co-Director and Associate Director of Choral Activities at the School of Music. “The University of Georgia has the opportunity to fill this niche.”


The festival also serves as an educational tool, as clinics and workshops will be provided for middle and high school students.


“The Jazz Festival is a non-profit effort, and it’s meant to bring in some really good players for students to learn from,” said Ryan Lanford, who is involved with the Terry College of Business’ Music Business Program. “There will be as much musical knowledge at this festival as you could find anywhere.”


The main event of the weekend is still the men’s and women’s cycling criterium, featuring cyclists from all over the world. The men will compete in an 80-km race around downtown Athens, with the start finish line located on Clayton Street at College Avenue.


The course runs clockwise on Clayton, Lumpkin, Washington and Thomas with over $120,000 in prize money awaiting the top riders at the finish line.


“I know when I was racing all of the students were buck-wild,” said 1984 individual sprint Olympic silver medalist Nelson Vails to the Red & Black. “It was wall-to-wall people and such an awesome atmosphere and that excitement and tradition is something that will never die. I don’t know what the University students would do without Twilight.”


The event also boasts Cine’s film festival, a BMX trick contest and also a race known as the Gambler.


People should come see the Twilight BMX contest because we do things that most people never even think can be done on a bike,” said local professional BMX flatlander Jody Temple to the Red & Black. “Flatland is a highly creative and individual sport that has so many different styles and ways of riding.”


The Gambler is a 50 km race that bypasses Beaver Dam Farm, which was built by country music singer Kenny Roger, establishing an easy name for the ride.


“The Gambler is a fun participation ride that has a nice mix of riders from people who are really fast to people who haven’t ridden a bike in 15 years,” said Gambler organizer Micah Morlock. “You get a playing card at the beginning and you can go through as fast as you can or as slow as you want, but you need to have a full hand at the end in order to win.”


The influx of people in the downtown area has bars anticipating record crowds, with each establishment gearing up for what is projected to be a profitable night.


“Twilight is the closest thing our bar gets to a football weekend in the spring semester,” said Jonathan Messer, a bartender at 8e’s bar. “We ordered an extra 170 cases of Bud Light for the weekend. That’s just one brand, which I know we ordered more of each, so we are expecting to make tons of cash.”


Whether it’s the bike ride, or the other attractions, many students have made big plans revolving around the spectacle.


“We’re going to have a cookout to pre-game for everything Friday afternoon,” Barrett said. “And once it gets dark we’ll head downtown to catch the riders. It’s just a really fun time.”


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