"It's all about the relationships...the community" - Jess Sikorski, DKR Guest Rider
HISTORY: The first DKGR (Dirty Kitten Gravel Race) was officially in 2019, but it all started before that when we invited 50 local riders out to Locust Hill Farm & Preserve (LHFP) in Rapidan, VA for an informal ride around the property followed by a picnic at "The Feedlot" (just below what is now known as the infamous Kitten Crusher Climb).
A few months earlier, my mother (Rosie Campbell, who lives down the road in Madison, VA and hosts DKGR camping on her farm), invited us to tour the property with owner, Mike Long.
My mother has been using the property for years hosting equestrian events with her club. Having lived in the area for 10 years (before moving to Frederick, MD), I knew that it had a lot to offer in terms of gravel roads, trails, and open space.
Driving around LHFP with Mike & Chris that day in an old Land Rover, my Event Director mind started to race. I could see it all clearly: a multi-day bike festival that included rides, races, music, food, camping, activities; our cycling community coming together from near and far to enjoy a few days together doing the things we love.
After our fun ride in 2018 (Locust Hill Gravel Grinder), the ball was set in motion, but we wanted to start small and work our way up from there. Having been around and involved in events most of my life (my father works in the entertainment industry), I knew not to go too big too soon. So the first official year of DKGR in 2019 was a single-day event with about 200 participants.
From there, we forged ahead and planned a multi-day event with more people for 2020. As we all know, that didn't happen as planned due to the global COVID-19 pandemic so we hosted a "socially-distanced" ride on the property and tabled our DKGR plans for the next year.
In 2021, we hosted our first multi-day DKGR event with 500 participants + staff and volunteers. It was the biggest undertaking we had managed to date and came with a variety of additional tasks: more trail clearing, signage, road guards, aid station equipment, camping, parking, volunteers, food, water, water, and more water.
In 2022, we did it all over again, holding at 500 participants. Dirty Kitten Racing Team riders flew in from across the country, and our bike friends from all over the region chipped in to help us prepare. The week of the event, the temps sky-rocketed into the high-90s with a heat-index of over 100 degrees. People started asking: What are you doing to do? July in the Mid-Atlantic is HOT, but this was a different level so we moved the start up a little earlier and prepared for scorching temps: water and A LOT of ice!!!!
DKGR 5.0 & 5th Anniversary Celebration: This year, we wanted to throw a big-a$$ anniversary party & thank all the folks who have supported us over the years. Dirty Kitten may be owned and operated by the 2 of us (Alex & Chris), but it takes a village of folks to make these events happen.
Our women's cycling team, Dirty Kitten Racing, comes together to help staff events; teams, clubs, and groups from around the region offer their assistance with trail clearing, parking, registration, start/finish tasks, food prep, course directing, aid station management, awards/prizes, and so much more: Full Send Racing, CAMBO, Sticky Fingers, Bikenetic, Melanin Base Miles, Team-Not-Team (TNT), National Capital Velo Club (NCVC), Baltimore Bicycle Works Racing (BBWR), Blue Mountain Velo, and Bull Run Hunt (co-hosts).
When we started all this 5+ years ago, our goal was not to make money or even really to turn it into a business. The objective was to create a safe, fun, and inclusive event for our cycling community. Although we still have a way to go in bringing that complete dream to fruition, we are constantly working towards a place where everyone is welcome.
Yes, we are sometimes restricted by obstacles pertaining to the property, course layout, terrain, staffing, budget, and insurance; however, we are aways listening and talking to people about ways we can improve. If you have attended DKGR, we would love to hear about your experience. If not, plan to make it out in 2024 (date TBA). We look forward to another year of Dirty Kitten events and hanging with all of you! - Alex Forte Howell, Dirty Kitten Productions (Owner)
If you have a DKGR story you would like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Photo Credits: Bruce Buckley