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Francestown

Tour de Francestown: A bike ride through history

Inaugural event May 25 will raise money for repairs to historic meeting house; ride through several towns includes three levels

The inaugural Tour de Francestown is scheduled for May 25, and will raise money for renovations to the Old Meeting House.

(Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence)

The inaugural Tour de Francestown is scheduled for May 25, and will raise money for renovations to the Old Meeting House. (Staff photo by Brandon Lawrence) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

FRANCESTOWN — Trustees of the Old Meeting House in Francestown have decided they want to get creative when it comes to raising funds to support renovations for the historic building.

On May 25, trustees will hold the inaugural Tour de Francestown bike ride, which will take cyclists through historic parts of the Monadnock region to help raise money for the Old Meeting House, which was constructed in 1803.

There are three levels of the ride — the half-century ride (53.8 miles), the quarter-century ride (30.7 miles), and the warm up (15.2 miles). Participants are encouraged to sign up based on their interests and stamina. This fundraiser isn’t a race, but rather a tour through neighboring towns and historic sites in the region.

The half-century ride will take cyclists through Mont Vernon, Milford, Lyndeborough, Greenfield, Peterborough, Hancock, and Bennington, then back to Francestown in front of the Old Meeting House. The other two rides are smaller variations that will go through area towns.

“One person said to me, ‘I don’t know how far I can go,’” Old Meeting House Trustees President Steve Griffin said in a phone interview Monday. “Well, this is not a race. You go as far as you can go.”

Cyclists can sign up for the event on Active.com, and then searching keyword “Francestown.” It’s a $25 sign-up fee, which includes lunch after the ride, a map of the route and historic buildings riders may want to note as they travel along.

Each ride starts at a different time, and participants are encouraged to arrive about a half an hour before their departure. The half-century ride starts at 9 a.m., the quarter-century begins at 10, and the warm up ride leaves at 10:30.

There is also a tour of the Old Meeting House after lunch for anyone who may be interested.

Old Meeting House trustee Roon Frost said in a phone interview Monday that the goal of the trustees’ fundraising efforts is to raise money while also appealing to a younger crowd that will hopefully get involved with the Old Meeting House.

“We’ve been trying to come up with new, innovative events to raise money,” Frost said. “This was just a new venture for us, trying to get people involved.”

Since cyclists can be of all ages, Frost said the Tour de Francestown is a perfect way to disperse interest among a diverse crowd.

Since the Old Meeting House is a non-profit organization, the town does not provide any money for its upkeep. So the trustees are responsible for raising the money necessary for renovations.

The current trustees developed a five-year Capital Fund Drive, with a goal of $70,000 in mind at the end of that time period. The $70,000 would cover the costs of installing an energy-efficient furnace, replacing windows, and other repairs that may need to be made in the near future.

The building was constructed in 1803, and cost just over $5,000 to complete. The meeting house has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1999, and is still being used for several events during the warmer months. Frost said that one of the goals is to use the meeting house for Town Meeting, but the problem now is the lack of heating.

“We’ve had weddings there during the winter, but someone has to pay for heat,” Frost said.

There is a whole list of fundraiser activities planned for the next several months. Frost said that musician Matt Savage, who grew up in Francestown, will perform on June 1. Savage attended Berklee College of Music and has released numerous jazz albums.

Griffin said about a dozen people have signed up for the event so far, but trustees are hoping to have a better turnout by the day of the event.

“As a board we felt we needed to do something besides just ask for money,” Griffin said. “If it goes well, we’ll keep doing it in future years. It’s a good time to come out, warm up and go through the countryside.”

Cyclists are encouraged to sign up by May 22, so they will be guaranteed to receive a map of the routes, lunch and the feedbag. But people can still sign up the day of the event as well.

“We just invite people to come out and have a good time,” Griffin said.

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