Barbecue, bikes and buffalo

Bison release, new festival, bicycle race highlight fun in Valley

Tom Zirbel and Carmen Small, shown on the podium after winning the 2012 Nature Valley Grand Prix men’s and women’s titles, will defend their crowns in this years race that ends Sunday in Stillwater. (Submitted photo)

Tom Zirbel and Carmen Small, shown on the podium after winning the 2012 Nature Valley Grand Prix men’s and women’s titles, will defend their crowns in this years race that ends Sunday in Stillwater. (Submitted photo)

Buffaloes, barbecue and bicycles will fill the Father’s Day weekend in the St. Croix Valley.

Saturday sees the annual release of bison in the Belwin Conservancy prairie and the inaugural “Rockin’ Ribs on the River” barbecue and music festival in Bayport.

And a Father’s Day tradition returns to Stillwater Sunday when the Nature Valley Grand Prix bicycle race wraps up its five-day run with the Stillwater Criterium that features professional cyclists tackling the 24-degree Chilkoot Hill.

The weekend fun begins at 11 a.m. Saturday in Lakeside Park in Bayport for the first Rockin’ on the River festival hosted by the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. The festival runs until 10 p.m. and guests can enjoy blues music while eating ribs on Saint Croix River. Children’s activities include face painting, henna, balloon animals, glitter tattoos and caricature artists.

The music lineup and schedule is 3-4 p.m.: Crankshaft; 4:30-6:30 p.m.: Mick Sterling & the Irresistibles; 7:30-9:30 p.m., and headliners David Ybarra & the Northside Dukes.

Food sampling tickets are available for $10 at the Stillwater Chamber tent.

At noon Saturday, NorthStar Bison of Rice Lake, Wis., releases North American bison on Belwin’s pairie to graze over the summer before the animals are rounded up this fall. Guests are encouraged to arrive at 11 a.m. to enjoy family-friendly activities and refreshments prior to the bison release. Visitors should park at the Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields in West Lakeland Township.

It’s all about bicycles Sunday in Stillwater. The Nature Valley Grand Prix event expo opens about two hours before racing starts. Amateur cyclists can take the course at 10:45 a.m., followed by the pro cyclists racing at 11:45 a.m. Last year’s men’s champion, Tom Zirbel, and woman’s titlist, Carmen Small, return to defend their crowns.

The weekend forecast calls for warm days and a chance of showers and thunderstorms tonight, Saturday and Sunday night. Highs are expected in the upper 70s to low 80s Saturday and Sunday with showers and storms likely tonight and Saturday. Sunday will start sunny, with a chance of thunderstorms returning Sunday night.

Contact Erik Sandin at erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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