Expect an event-filled Saturday in downtown Columbus

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 10, 2013 

Garrett Lawrence is anticipating how Saturday will unfold in downtown Columbus.

"It is going to be crazy," said Lawrence, a co-owner of the new 1000 block beer and wine store, Maltitude.

Event after event, each drawing a diverse and passionate slice of the community, will roll through downtown from morning to night.

It starts at 9 a.m. with the Tuskegee-Morehouse parade through the streets of Phenix City and Columbus. In addition to floats, civic organizations and candy-tossing politicians, the parade features two of the nation's top college bands.

But it doesn't end there.

The Uptown Market Days will run on the east side of Broadway at the same time the parade rolls down the west side. Add to that about 500 cyclists -- many of them camping on the Columbus State University campus along the Chattahoochee River -- leaving downtown for Harris County on the second day of the three-day Georgia Bikefest.

Not long after the cyclists come back into downtown, the Mogadishu Mile 5K, a military tribute run, will begin at 5 p.m. Civilians and Army Rangers, many in full-combat gear, will be running through the downtown streets and along the Chattahoohcee RiverWalk.

The day will end much like it starts -- folks banging on drums. The Uptown Drum Circle, open to anyone who feels the beat, will be held on the island belong the Eagle & Phenix water tower on the RiverWalk.Lawrence, who worked at Ride On Bikes before recently opening Maltitude, says it is an important weekend for downtown because of the number of out-of-town visitors, especially with Bikefest, which is sponsored by Bike Ride Across Georgia.

"The cool thing about the BRAG guys is they are from many different markets," Lawrence said. "They will literally take a piece of Columbus back with them. And, hopefully, they will tell people how good it is here. This part of it is about tourism."

Alek Ansley, who owns JudyBug's, which sells new and used books downtown, has seen busy weekends. He eagerly awaits this one.

"I really look forward to the Tuskegee-Morehouse parade because it's great music," Ansley said. "The Mogadishu Mile is one of the most impressive things you will see downtown. When you watch those guys running in full gear, it's amazing."

The Mogadishu Mile commemorates those Rangers and other soldiers lost in the Somalia battle 20 years ago that was chronicled in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down." The run benefits the Ranger Assistance Foundation, which helps those with the 75th Ranger Regiment assigned to Fort Benning.

They have about 300 runners preregistered and the number could approach 500, said foundation President Neal Gentry. This is the fourth year the run has been off post, and it is the third year it has been downtown.

"I see having this downtown as a benefit to the regiment," Gentry said. "It helps people in the community to be more aware of the Rangers and what's going on."

This week, two Fort Benning-based Rangers were among four killed in an Afghanistan attack on Sunday. About 30 addition troops were injured.

"It's been a tough week," Gentry said.

Because of the attention on the war deaths, Gentry said it could increase the numbers for the Mogadishu Mile.

"It would not surprise me," he said.

For Ansley, he will sell books and watch it all unfold.

"This is one of those weekends that make downtown what it is," he said.

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