The Saratoga Sun -

Handlebars and helmets in Hanna


Mike Armstrong

Hanna Marshal Jeff Neimark shows off the bikes donated by Walmart for the Bike Rodeo on May 12.

The fifth annual Bike Rodeo will be held on May 12 at 9 a.m. at the Hanna Elementary School. Jeff Neimark, the Hanna Marshal, is expecting about 80 participants, making it the largest bike rodeo since the event's inception. Wal-Mart has contributed a boy's and a girl's bike to the event.

What exactly is a Bike Rodeo?

According to Neimark, the rodeo is an event to teach safety and confidence while having students pay attention to the rules in a fun way. The rodeo consists of navigating obstacles such as tennis balls, cones or hitting cracks. Braking, pedaling, avoiding holes and balancing are emphasized in the rodeo.

"We have events called Rock Dodge, Tight Turn Ride, Riding Straight and Snail Race which is to see who can go slowest without falling off and the last kid standing wins, are designed for children to learn to enjoy biking safely," Neimark said.

Neimark is glad to see the Bike Rodeo back after the event took a break last year. He enjoys teaching bike safety and skills to children and attributes his passion to when he started one of first bicycle patrol programs in the state of Illinois in 1996. He was trained through International Mountain Bike Police Association (IMBPA) as a certified bike police officer.

"This is when I started becoming involved with bicycling youth programs," said Neimark. "I loved riding at work and for personal pleasure. I wanted to teach safety, rules and confidence to kids when they got on bikes."

He also teaches the importance of having the proper equipment when riding bikes, such as helmets and pads. Niemark is comfortable working with kids and is a current member of the Carbon County Juvenile Services Board.

Neimark retired as a police lieutenant in Highwood, Illinois about ten years ago and moved his family to Wyoming to have his family enjoy the small town experience. He has been a Marshal in Hanna for nine years and been in law enforcement for 27 years. Neimark said when he came to Hanna, the town had to hire almost a whole law enforcement department because of matriculation. His experience as a certified field training officer, a graduate of two police academies and his years in Illinois as a police officer garnered him the Marshal's job in Hanna.

"The State of Wyoming recognized my training and experience in Illinois and I successfully graduated the Wyoming Academy becoming a Professional Peace Officer License with the state of Wyoming," said Neimark.

Saratoga gets involved

In years prior, the Girl Scouts were the ones Neimark worked with to put on the event. This year, Mark Shipp, principal of Hanna elementary, is working with Neimark to involve his students. Like Neimark, he is a bike enthusiast and wanted his students to feel comfortable and secure on bikes.

Shipp has coordinated with St. Barnabas Episcopal Church of Saratoga to give new helmets to the participants.

"I remember driving around in Hanna and saw some kids riding around without helmets," said Shipp. "I wanted to be able to offer all the kids a helmet with this educational, fun way to learn safety."

St. Barnabas knows about helping kids with bikes, says Shipp. Ralph Hicks, a Saratoga resident, takes old bikes and either fixes them up or uses them for parts for a program through St. Barnabas where kids are given the resurrected bikes.

Hicks will be at the rodeo to offer tips and judge events along with Shipp and Neimark.

This is the second year Wal-Mart has donated two bikes to the rodeo.

The Bike Rodeo is regarded by Neimark and Shipp with much anticipation of teaching safety, rules and fun for biking.

"The safety and knowledge of rules for the road concerning bikes is something they can carry with them the rest of their lives," says Neimark. "The best part is they can learn to enjoy biking safely."


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