Everybody wins at the UPAF Ride for the Arts

NEW: Check out TCD's posts from the day of the ride! | TCD takes a look at what's new at the UPAF Ride for the Arts with volunteer Charles Kakuk of Next Act Theatre.

By - May 22nd, 2012 02:54 pm

This year, riders on the 5-mile journey got to cycle through Lakeshore State Park. (2012 ride photos by Brian Jacobson and Benjamin Wick)

Milwaukee is lucky to have the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF), one of the largest united arts funds in the nation.

UPAF, a nonprofit, umbrella organization, supports 36 performing arts groups in southeastern Wisconsin through its annual fundraising campaign. Last year alone, UPAF allocated more than $7.5 million to its Member and Affiliated organizations.

Just as impressive, UPAF’s annual Ride for the Arts is one of the nation’s largest one-day recreational bike rides. This year, the Ride will take place Sunday, June 3.

“Have fun — that’s what it’s about,” said Charles Kakuk, Managing Director of Next Act Theatre. “Everybody wins. The arts in Milwaukee are important. We hire people. We keep people in Milwaukee. It’s a win-win and if you can have fun in the meantime, why not?”

Kakuk has participated with the Ride for 24 years. He has a whole drawer full of the collectible t-shirts. A bad knee keeps him off the bike, but he volunteers his time every year at the scenic Grant Park Oasis, the turnaround point on the 25-mile route. The oasis is staffed by Next Act staff, friends, and subscribers.

Next Act Managing Director Charles Kakuk at their new stage during the recent Bravo! fundraiser. (Photo: Brian Jacobson)

Kakuk has seen it all from the Oasis. Every year, there’s lost kids, and “they’re always found,” he said. UPAF does a great job organizing medical staff, security, and communications. “It’s a well-oiled machine,” Kakuk affirmed, “It has to be.”

Next Act also has a team of approximately 10 riders. They don’t dress in costume like some, but they sport UPAF t-shirts with the Next Act logo.

Next Act Theatre is one of UPAF’s Member organizations, and UPAF gives them “the biggest chunk of donated money” they have, Kakuk said. “They do an incredible job raising money so I stay out of their way and help where I can,” he continued.

Participation in the Ride is an opportunity to spread the word for arts organizations. Kakuk puts up a Next Act sign at the Oasis, and other arts organizations promote themselves as well. But the arts are not a motivator for all riders.

“Some people are avid bike riders,” Kakuk said. “They love doing it. They love getting the t-shirts.” In the past, he’s had to direct speeding bikers to stop for an oasis, saying, “This isn’t a race.”

Nonetheless, the Ride does offer a variety of distances and routes to please everyone from kids to serious bikers. Starting and finishing at the South Gate of the Summerfest Grounds, routes are 5, 12, 25, 50 and 75 miles long. They travel past several Milwaukee landmarks and continue along the scenic shores of Lake Michigan through communities and parks.

For the first time, the 5-mile route will meander through Lakeshore State Park, the first and only urban state park in Wisconsin. Riders on the 25, 50, and 75-mile routes will get to see the view of the harbor as they cross the Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge – a destination normally off limits to bikers.

After the ride, participants will enjoy free, live entertainment at the Finish Line Party at the Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard Stage on the Summerfest Grounds.

Team registration is now closed, but you may still sign-up as an individual rider by clicking here.

Will you be at this year’s UPAF Ride for the Arts? Look for ThirdCoast Digest at the Finish Line Party! Hope to see you there!

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