Springtime in the Wichita Mountains is best characterized as abundant with wildflowers and cool temperatures although we have seen other extremes since the event began in 1989, such as hot & dry winds, rain & thunder, and even zero-visibility fog followed by cold rain. This year Mother Nature cooperated nicely as she has most years.
The flag is hoisted high above Meers Volunteer Fire Station, our emcee asks everyone to remember the meaning of Memorial Day for the brave who sacrifice by defending our nation, the crowd quiets to say the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a singer doing our National Anthem with cheers from the participants. A raffle drawing is featured each year.
This annual event is remembered for the good vibes and happy comments from participants not only in person at our fire station but also on Facebook and emails received after the event.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (WMWR) welcomes the crowd as our co-host. This 60,000-acre wildlife preserve of mixed grass prairie is the crown jewel of all 568 federal refuges under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This refuge was established in 1901. Meers VFD is a mutual aid partner with WMWR Fire crews, so we want our riders to recognize that they should act as guests observing safety on the refuge roads, cattle guards and vehicular traffic along with free-roaming bison and longhorn cattle.
The gravel routes had been in our planning for a few years while determining the locations and partnering with Basecamp Adventure Outfitters of neighboring Medicine Park. Adding gravel routes in 2023 drew accolades, gratitude and “about time” comments from the 100 riders on those routes.
The Tour de Meers organizers strongly encourage participants to understand we all must respect wild animals and recognize not only that they have the right of way, but also that they are dangerous when provoked. Put another way, we enjoy a great working relationship with the Refuge staff who are our hosts and ask that we abide by their regulations.
Also new in 2023 was that we provided free hot dogs and refreshments to anyone lingering after completing the ride. We announced this offering during the opening ceremony to cheers from the crowd. A portion of the event’s revenues goes to providing fully stocked rest stops with portable toilets, directional signs and arrows, safety vests and hand-held signs for our volunteers stationed at cattle guards and intersections, and the significant expense of providing event t-shirts in all sizes. We offer a Tour de Meers merchandise booth where participants can purchase a variety of event t-shirts, light & heavy hoodies, ball caps and mugs. The booth is open at 6:00am and remains open until the last riders return in the early afternoon.