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Fast and furious on three wheels

Trike Fest20BIG CYPRESS — Tribal leaders jump started the ninth annual Senior Trike Fest Oct. 24 with fighting words for five of the fastest and most furious reservation teams – on three wheels.

“We did it before and we’ll do it again. We’re ready to rock and roll,” said Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard at the Big Cypress airport hangar turned NASCAR race course packed with nearly 100 seniors revved and raring to go.

Big Cypress Councilman Mondo Tiger snapped back: “Hey, are we upset from not winning last year? Yes, so now we’re back to win it.”

Hollywood Board Rep. Steve Osceola pumped up Hollywood’s team with star power.

“You know when our seniors are in town because we come with a police escort – and that’s a good thing,” Rep. Osceola said.

Brighton, Immokalee, Hollywood, Big Cypress and Tampa went pedal to pedal on fun trike courses that tested agility, strength, speed, reflex, skill and even wit. Competitors slalomed through a cone weave, raced through challenging mazes, balanced physical and brain speed with puzzle runs, and banded together in the grand finale team relay race.

All the while, race-themed music blasted full throttle – the Beach Boys’ Fun, Fun, Fun and I Get Around; Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild; and Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz. NASCAR champion Todd Bodine was on hand to pose for pictures with seniors and a racecar from the first Native-owned race team Germain-Osceola, which is part owned by Tribal member O.B. Osceola Jr., of Naples.

Bodine laid out a few trike racing rules.

“No crashing, no speeding, have a lot of fun,” he said.

Strict guidelines were already dictated by the Health Department, which staged the event led by director Connie Whidden. Each station was manned by a course manager, timekeeper, time clock operator, penalty judges and a safety assistant.

Serious physical training had been full-speed ahead at reservation senior centers for about two months.

Health Department fitness coordinator Denise Masak, of Hollywood, said some team members worked out two to four times a day to build cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength on trikes.

“It’s a combined serious and friendly competition, but the seniors have fun being physically active while they reap the benefit of being physically fit,” Masak said.

Super seniors (ages 55-61), Golden Seniors (62-68) and Diamond Seniors (69-up) earned points that were later tallied to determine winners for each challenge. But not all seniors took to trikes. Seniors unable to ride due to physical issues competed instead in walk up “hiker” events for chances to win in target toss, ladder ball and ring toss games.

Some contests required no physical challenge. Competitors also battled for prizes in Best Dressed Trike and Best Dressed Triker awards. Brighton swept both categories with Patty Waldron in first place, Connie Whidden and Mable Tichenor tying for second and Jenny Johns in third.

In his third consecutive year on the Hollywood team, Moses Osceola laughed after a successful end at the zany puzzle challenge station, but later he admitted that the 2013 games marked the first time he practiced.

“Before, I always came unprepared. This year I trained going through the cones and riding fast. I’m ready to win,” he said.

Though Big Cypress swept the grand finale five-member tricycle relay race and Tampa owned the most participants category for the fifth consecutive year (tallied by percentage of total residents), Brighton championed the Trike Fest overall for the fourth time in five years.

Cheering sections clearly hoped for the rival Big Cypress or Brighton teams to take home the coveted trophy, but it was a close call with Brighton at 115 points and Big Cypress at 108. Hollywood placed third overall, Tampa came in fourth and Immokalee was fifth.

“Mostly, it’s fun to be out here with good company. There is great camaraderie here,” Moses Osceola said.