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I understand both perspectives on the question of whether the Green Mountain Stage Race should or should not have been held. On the one hand, the idea of a bicycle race seems trivial in the midst of a disaster recovery effort.
On the other hand, the reality is that the Stage Race represents significant income to businesses in The Valley and beyond. It was important that the race be held for several reasons. First, in a weak economy, our inns and restaurants could ill afford to write off Labor Day weekend.
Second, holding the race sent the message that The Valley (and Vermont) were open for business. Finally, while we hope they are minimal, we do not know with certainty what the financial consequences of Irene will be for the foliage and ski seasons, so it was important that we not turn away visitors who were already committed to coming here.
To those who felt it was inappropriate to hold the bike race, consider the efforts that are now underway to help flood-impacted businesses resume operation. Had the race been canceled, it would have effectively closed viable businesses at the same time as others were working hard to reopen. The race represented about $1 million worth of revenue that easily could have been lost to Hurricane Irene but was not.
Despite the inconvenience it caused and the problems cited in last week's Valley Reporter, I am glad it took place. It has taken years of hard work for the Stage Race to achieve the level of participation, visibility and support it now enjoys. Had it been cancelled, we might all be wondering if there would be a race next year. This will remain a controversial decision, but I believe race organizers and local and state officials made the right call.
In difficult times, it is important to maintain the rituals and rhythms of ordinary life. The bike race, the craft fair and the farmers' market helped us do that on Labor Day weekend, even as many were helping neighbors shovel muck from their homes and businesses. The fact that these events went forward does not suggest insensitivity to what happened but affirms the strength, resilience and hospitality of The Valley community.
Wayne Davies lives in Waitsfield.