The month of November is notorious with brisk weather, vibrantly colored leaves, and Thanksgiving to name a few. The Bronx, a borough of 1.5 million inhabitants, can now add one more - their own Cranksgiving.
Since its inception in 1999 by the NYC bike messenger community, this food drive meets alley cat race has popularly spread over the years to over 80 cities across the nation. Participants receive a list (a.k.a. manifest) with a list of various grocery stores and food items to pick from. Each rider must decide the best routes and order to make it to the end.
Ken Stanek, 39, has been organizing the Manhattan event since 2007, where rider attendance has grown into the hundreds. "It’s definitely a race, but it’s not really for speed. Yeah, there are winners and people who do it the fastest, but the goal is really just to pull in food. It’s some way of giving back,” he said. Last year, 340 riders of all types were able to gather nearly 2.5 tons of food for The Bowery Mission and Nazareth Housing.
For the 1st edition of a Bronx Cranksgiving, Stanek handed the keys of organizer over to the borough’s own - Edmundo Martinez, often referred to as "Mundo." Despite having never hosted an event of this kind before, there was no doubt Stanek selected the right person for the job. “I never thought of any other candidate. Mundo was not only willing - he was excited and honored to do it. He was more than the perfect choice to have brought it to the Bronx,” he said.
To ensure this rendition of Cranksgiving had some extra flavor, Mundo acquired several local sponsorships, such as the Bronx Brewery, From the Bronx, The Bronx “Greenmarket” Hot Sauce, Skid and Destroy, CC Cyclery and Continuum Cycles, and more. "I was lucky enough to get connected with these companies. The day isn't about prizes, but prizes help ridership, which means more food we donate to our charities: Bronx Works and the Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice,” said the 37-year-old Bronx native.
Last Saturday, 38 riders tested their skills through the open streets of the Boogie Down Bronx. (1st Place) Austin Horse, (2nd) Michael Crocco, (3rd) James Macay, and (1st Lady) Cassandra Brooklyn got podium and etched their names in Bronx Cranksgiving history.
Despite some early nerves, he is proud to have organized the first and hopefully many more of the event to come. "I was hesitant and initially didn't want to do it. I spoke to a few people about the possibility and they all said I HAD to do it. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. Not for me, but for the Bronx. We deserve to have events here and they should be held by people from the Bronx. Then, I went through a series of emotions, mostly nervousness. I didn't want to fail the charities or the reputation of Cranksgiving being a fun event. As word spread and the day of, I felt honored,” Mundo said.
When discussing any future plans for the race, his main focus is feeding more people and families in need. It’s considered an added bonus to showcase his home borough. “If I can show people that the Bronx isn't such a bad place to ride, eat, and chill - that's great, too. There is a lot of great things happening here that people don't know about, especially at the grassroots level. They won't realize that till they spend some time here.” The Bronxite is already aiming for a larger turnout in 2017.
After a fun-filled evening, there is now a mobilization and push for a Brooklyn Cranksgiving. Brooklynites, too, will now have an opportunity to help their community on Dec.3 at 121 Knickerbocker (and Flushing). Registration is at 1pm.
Tomorrow will be Manhattan’s 18th annual Cranksgiving and rumors have spread this could be the last year for its long-serving organizer. "It may be my last Cranksgiving as host in NYC. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, which is a nice round number and notch to have on my belt for running an awesome alley cat,” Stanek said. "I’m always going to be involved in it on a national level, but I would love to be able to hand it off to people who are more local and still more involved in the scene.
Nevertheless, Cranksgiving day is a “bonding experience” that won’t shy away from its tradition of bringing people together and helping those in need for many years to come; no matter the location.