PERRY, Mo. -- The city of Perry is gearing up for an influx of visitors on two wheels this week.
The 693-population community in southwest Ralls County will serve as the first overnight stop for the Big Bicycle Across Missouri event, which begins Monday morning in Columbia and ends Friday night in Columbia.
More than 300 riders from across the nation are expected to take part in the five-day, 309.2-mile excursion.
Several communities in The Herald-Whig's coverage area are situated along the Big BAM's circuitous route, but none will be impacted more than Perry.
Perry officials have been making plans since February to be the ride's first overnight stop on Monday, June 10. But then last week Big BAM organizers realized they needed to adjust some routes because several Northern Missouri roads are closed due to flooding.
For instance, there is no way the riders would be able to reach Arrow Rock, which was initially scheduled to be the fourth overnight stop on Thursday. So the organizers asked if Perry would host the riders for a second time on Thursday night.
"We told them whatever they needed, we would help them," said Dustin Wasson, president of the Perry Community Betterment organization, which is hosting the Big BAM bicyclists both days.
Wasson, a former Perry mayor, said local volunteers are happy to roll out the red carpet for the Big BAM riders -- twice -- because it's good exposure for the community, which is always looking to boost its stature as a tourist destination. The small city known for its antique stores was dubbed one of Missouri's "10 prettiest small towns" two years ago.
"We're bringing in approximately 300 bicyclists from across the United States, and we look at it as a way to showcase our town," Wasson said. "Hopefully some of the riders will want to bring their families back to Perry and the Mark Twain Lake area in the future to visit and stay for a couple of days."
Wasson said having the Big BAM in town also will provide a fun outlet for local residents because all activities being planned for the bicyclists will be open to area residents as well.
SDLqIt's not just for the riders," he said.
The first day's Big BAM route will cover 62.8 miles from Columbia to Perry. Mexico -- the approximate half-way point -- will be the designated lunch stop for the day. Then from Mexico the riders will traverse the final 27-mile leg to Perry, arriving in town mid-day on Route B.
A welcome tent will be set up at the town's entrance to greet the riders and direct them to Bill Trower Memorial Park, where most of the visitors will camp in a "tent city."
Some activities are planned for downtown Perry on Monday afternoon, including live music behind Rick's Place. However, most of the day's activities will take place later at the park, where food stands will be open from 4 to 8 p.m., a beer garden opens at 4 p.m. and a free live concert featuring Two-Bit Steve begins at 6:30.
Then on Tuesday morning, the Chamber of Commerce will serve breakfast in the park starting at 6:30 a.m. before the riders depart for their next overnight stop in Macon, 67.4 miles away.
The revised route schedule calls for riders to travel on Wednesday from Macon to Moberly, then on Thursday from Moberly to Perry. The Thursday route will take riders through the historic Union Covered Bridge near Paris, the city of Paris, the village of Florida and the Mark Twain Birthplace Shrine before ending again in Perry for an overnighter with food and music at Bill Trower Memorial Park. The bicyclists will then ride back to Columbia Friday morning.
While Thursday's events in Perry will be open to the public, "we want to make sure people come Monday," Wasson said. "Monday is really the big day for us. That's the one we planned for."
Wasson said Perry residents are eager to host the visiting bikers.
"The city just put up new ‘Welcome' banners and spruced up the town," he said. "So everything looks really nice, and everyone is ready for it."
More information is available at bigbamperry.com and bigbamride.com.