Tour de Fresh Closes 5th Year with First Finish Line Festival
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
MONTEREY, CA - In a fashion fit for produce, the 5th annual Tour de Fresh rode into a crowd of waiting onlookers just after noon yesterday to cheers, applause, and even some cowbells, after nearly 300 miles of sweat, spills, and (of course) cycling.
“On behalf of Tanimura & Antle I’d like to welcome you to the official Finish Line Festival; we’ve been a premier sponsor for five years, and we’re very very proud to be connected with and support Tour de Fresh and support Salad Bars for Schools,” Tanimura & Antle’s Helena Beckett, who has previously ridden for the tour and acted as a key member of the support squad this round, said at the festival.
It was just the day before that the group traversed Mount Hamilton in triple-digit weather, which Kelly Ansaldo, sponsored by Tanimura & Antle, shared with event attendees.
“It’s so nice to be able to participate year after year; the different routes they really make you dig inside and challenge yourself, but it’s also about the camaraderie. I just want to thank my teammates; I think that’s the coolest thing. We all struggled—I don’t know if you guys got to know where we traveled. We were climbing hills at 111 degrees. We drank more water than we’ve ever drank here on the Tour de Fresh. You guys are awesome. Thank you for allowing me to be your teammate just one more time,” she said.
Even Olympian and former Tour de France rider Axel Merckx said the ride was a challenge—but promised to continue to return for love of the crew and the cause.
“Last year Anthony [Gallino] told me I had to come. When I showed up last year, someone asked, 'do I do this often'—I don’t. But I have to say I had such a blast, and it’s such a good cause; I didn’t have to be asked if I was coming out this year. I usually don’t do climbs, but I’ll do climbs for you guys,” Axel told the group at our final Tour de Fresh dinner, before DMA Solutions Dan’l Mackey Almy surprised California Giant Foundation and Tanimura & Antle with a story of when she was a young marketing assistant and two men made a lasting impression.
Rick Antle and Pat Riordan both, Dan’l said, never forgot her name and were among the first to call when she set out on her own to market for the fresh produce industry. In their honor, she and DMA Solutions made a generous contribution to putting salad bars in schools, promising even more to the first five riders who sang at karaoke after dinner!
Witness to it all at our final dinner, and in attendance on behalf of Virginia’s Fairfax Public Schools, was School Foodservice Director and school salad bar pioneer Rodney Taylor.
“School foodservice is not the butt of jokes anymore; we’re part of a transformation. It’s not a fad. In 1997, I started the first of its kind in the country, and today, it’s all over the country. So this is not a fad; you’re transforming our food system; you’re changing the way children will eat; you’re helping determine not only the quantity but the quality of their lives,” Rodney said at the finish line.
In addition to Mr. Taylor’s school district, Laredo ISD in Texas, Pueblo City School District in Colorado, and Vista School District in California will be receiving salad bars from the $141,000 check the California Giant Foundation presented to United Start.
United Start Foundation’s Andrew Marshall was also there to thank and get to know riders, introducing Robert Cuellar, School Foodservice Director for Laredo ISD, who shared that Tour de Fresh is helping to serve 23-plus thousand students in his district.
“You have impacted the lives of children that do not have access to many fruits and vegetables,” Cuellar said. “It isn’t easy to do for others, but you have reached and impacted the lives of children, not just in Laredo but in other districts as well.”
I cannot believe, even with an extra day, that my fourth Tour de Fresh is wrapped up and in the books. Donations however, are not. You can continue to help raise the bar (pun intended) as the foundation continues to raise money through August 31st.
As for next year, in the word of Anthony Gallino, we are “back to the big show” as the tour returns to PMA Fresh Summit for its Anaheim, California, show October, 2019. Can’t wait to see the Tour de Fresh family return bigger and better than ever!