Guillermo Hernandez Alcantar has come to Niagara-on-the-Lake to work on local farms for the last 12 years. In that time he’s missed only two or three bike safety events.
Javier Morales, a volunteer with the Niagara Falls Multicultural Centre, was learning the ropes of the event and helping the Spanish-speaking farm workers by providing his services as a translator.
Morales is learning English, he said, and the event was giving him a chance to practise and improve his language skills, while helping others.
Alcantar said, through the translator, that he needs his bike for shopping and for transportation.
When he has some time off work, he said, he likes to ride his bike around town and visit different spots.
He said he was happy to have Mark Gaudet check over his bike. He was getting new tires for it and its chain oiled, among other things.
“I use it for fun. When I’m not working I’m riding my bike,” he said.
Alcantar is just one of thousands of farm workers who over the years have been able to ride their bikes away from the annual event with it in better shape than when it arrived, at no cost.
Gaudet was hoping to add lights to the bikes he repaired, but they hadn’t arrived on time — he said when they do he will put them on bikes that are brought to the former Virgil Public School, where he and a team of volunteers repair bikes for farm workers.
Alcantar also had an opportunity to listen to Spanish music, receive health advice, enjoy a dinner and hope to win one of 37 bikes being raffled Sunday afternoon at the Centennial Arena.
Possibly most important was the opportunity to socialize with other workers from other farms.
It’s been more than 25 years since the first bike rodeo was held for migrant workers, but this year might have been the largest turnout yet.
There was also more to offer the men and women who arrived at the Centennial Arena on a sunny Sunday afternoon to socialize, have their bikes checked out for safety, and enjoy a free dinner prepared and served by volunteers, with live entertainment by Enlace, a group which comes from Toronto.
The annual event has been organized since its inception by what was originally the Niagara-on-the-Lake Community Policing Committee, formed as a liaison between Niagara Regional Police and municipalities across the Region.
When the police took a step back, it became the Town’s NOTL Safety Committee.
This year, it formed a partnership with another group which has also been offering assistance to farm workers, and combined them. The Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group was formed by representatives of not-for-profit community organizations that can offer help to the men and women working on local farms.
At Sunday’s bike rodeo were Positive Living Niagara and some other groups which addressed health and legal issues the workers might face.
Also an important element of the event was Bikes for Farmworkers, with several volunteers on hand to do a safety inspection and repairs to bikes.