Noble Street Festival

Courtney Miesch looks through one of her etched glass trays at Courtney's Etched Glass tent during the 2019 Noble Street Festival in Anniston. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Masses of people gathered in downtown Anniston on Saturday to take part in two long-standing local traditions: The Sunny King Criterium and Noble Street festival.

Sunny King Criterium director Marilyn Cullinane said both events, which take place concurrently each year, were started 17 years ago.

“They have two different names, but we are meshed heavily together,” Cullinane said. “They’re one and the same.”

Cullinane said the criterium includes 21 bicycle races for cyclists of all ages and skill levels. It’s the first event in a USA Cycling professional road tour that ends during the summer near the west coast. This year, Cullinane said, nearly 500 cyclists signed up for one of the races Saturday.

Flat Rock, N.C., resident Charlie Putnal said he has participated in the Sunny King Criterium more times than he can remember.

“It’s a hard course, but a relatively safe course, even if it’s raining,” Putnal said.

Newnan, Ga., resident Paula Moore, who came to the criterium in support of her husband’s cycling team, said she was impressed by how many races there were.

“It’s just a fun race to come and watch, as well as anticipate,” Moore said.

She said she was glad to see that the criterium had races for children.

“Watching the young ones coming up and race, I really enjoy that,” Moore said. “That’s our goal. Getting people on bikes.”

Another event initially scheduled for Sunday, the Piedmont Road Race, was cancelled due to the threat of severe weather.

Main Street Anniston director Reilly Johnson, who heads the Noble Street Festival, said the festival started off as a way to garner the community’s interest in cycling.

“The pro races bring a really wide variety of people to town, from all across the country, so we really wanted to have an opportunity to engage the community,” Johnson said.

Cyclist Erik Peterson, who drove to Anniston from Greenville, S.C., said this was his first year to ride in one of the races. Peterson said he decided to get involved after he heard Cullinane’s husband speak about the Sunny King Criterium.

Peterson said he appreciated that a street festival was held along with the races because it gave him and other cyclists a chance to showcase their sport.

“When they see the racing along with a festival, it will kind of draw them into the cycling a little bit more,” Peterson said. “When we leave, it kind of puts us in a better light.”

Cullinane said proceeds from the races go toward Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser, and cyclists are aiming to raise $10,000 for the organization.

“I think we’re definitely going to hit that,” Cullinane said. “All around, it really is just a chance for the entire community to come together and support one another, from the city administration to key charitable organizations within the community and the actual people that are affected by cancer.”

Johnson said the festival also gave city officials the opportunity to show off its downtown area.

“It’s a huge day for our merchants downtown, because it’s the day that the most people come downtown to Noble Street on a single day,” Johnson said. “It really is just a good way to bring people down to our central, focal-point of downtown.”

In addition to the races, there were live music performances, food vendors, arts and crafts vendors and an area for kids.

The races were live streamed across several different countries for those that couldn’t watch the races in person, Cullinane said.

“We get a lot of viewership online. Twenty countries or more will view our live stream today and be seeing Anniston,” Cullinane said. “And every state in the United States will be viewing our live stream.”

According to Putnal, the live streaming of the event allowed his teammates at home to watch him ride.

“The fact that all our mates are watching us on TV, there’s nowhere to hide,” Putnal said. “It’s just extra motivation.”

Contact Staff Writer Amalia Kortright at 256-235-3563.