When the bells in City Hall toll 5 p.m., parking garages throughout Downtown empty like a sieve and, until the following morning, sit as largely useless, empty monoliths. But starting Wednesday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m., Wheel and Sprocket has teamed up with Interstate Parking and a friendly, oversized and dare we say vaguely familiar simian named Dankey Kang to transform the barren structures into a wild bicycle party with its first-ever Guerrilla Grand Prix series.
"We reached out to the marketing department at Interstate Parking," said Amelia Lukic-Kegel, owner and director of marketing of Wheel and Sprocket. "They have been getting more requests to rent the garages for non-traditional uses than ever before, like parties, wedding, etc. I think it's great that they are open to getting creative with the lots and are open to re-activating them with uses other than car parking."
The three nights of racing are timed to coincide with the Newaukee Night Market and will take place in different parking garages around the city.
"We were looking for ways to add programing to the already successful event," she said. "When you bring people together, great things happen and filling Milwaukee with great events is the best way to do it."
The races are open to anyone with any bicycle and the competition is meant to be fun and friendly – "goofiness is encouraged and expected," according to their website – but you can bet there will be some speedsters putting their reputations on the line.
There are three categories:
- Straight-up racing (first to the line wins)
- Guerrilla single (don't take yourself too seriously, ride weird bikes, perform tasks, earn points to win)
- Guerrilla relay (like the Guerrilla single, but relay-style)
With the wildness of guerrilla racing, steps have been taken to make sure things don't get too out of hand. Lukic-Kegel has ensured that safety is a top priority.
"Putting on our Hugh Jass Fat Bike Series has really taught us a lot with courses," she said. "We have put on over 25 races in the last 3 years and have really learned a lot on how courses need to be designed for fun and safety.
"Each parking garage has different clearances and setups, but we love our friends, so safety is the number one consideration. There are a few areas of caution where we will have staff and signage posted; if you do not stay in the saddle while displaying safe riding techniques, you will be automatically disqualified."
So who is Dankey Kang?
"Dankey is our mascot for the series and inspires us to keep focused on creating a fun, retro, video game-style race, with mazes, challenges and extra points for collecting bananas," Lukic-Kegel said.
The Guerilla Grand Prix was inspired by Crosshairs Cycling Club in Washington, D.C.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.