In an entrepreneurial endeavor they hope will benefit their school, Centennial High School students and parents will welcome more than 1,200 bicycle-riding guests from across the country Friday.
The Ellicott City residents will be host to riders on the seventh annual Cycle Across Maryland (CAM) Tour for 24 hours, hoping to use the event to raise money for Centennial High School's technology program.
"It's like having 1,200 guests coming to your home," said David Buchoff, the high school's assistant principal.
"All of a sudden, they will just descend on the school."
The tour began yesterday in Oakland in Garrett County and will end Saturday in Baltimore.
The event is as much about raising money for the school as playing host to the riders, said Darrell Krasoski, the host site coordinator. "Parents and students are trying to improve what's going on [at the school]," he said.
Centennial hopes to raise at least $5,000. Most of the money is expected to come from riders buying meals at the school cafeteria and from county businesses that bought advertising space in a Howard County tour sponsor book .
The money would go toward buying new technology for the school, which now has only a couple of dozen computers for nearly 1,200 students, Mr. Krasoski said.
"They are lucky if they can get 30 minutes a week on the keyboard," he added.
The CAM Tour is designed to let cyclists of all ages and from all over the country explore Maryland's cities, suburbs and towns.
Since Ellicott City is the last overnight stop for the ride, Mr. Krasoski is betting that the riders will spend the balance of their money in the county.
Nearly 100 volunteers will greet the riders at the high school. There will be accommodations for bathing, eating and sleeping, Mr. Krasoski said.
"It's like a cruise ship," he said. "We're the dock."
Once the riders settle in, they will have the choice of touring the county on rented buses or attending a pool party in the Village of Dorsey's Search. There will also be bands and country line dancing at the high school.
The high school also will have booths where school clubs will sell hot dogs, hamburgers, snowballs and cakes to the riders. The clubs will keep the money they raise, Mr. Krasoski said.
The county has been host to the riders in the event several times in the tour's seven-year history, but never in Ellicott City, Mr. Krasoski said.
Pat Bernstein, the tour's director, said the county is very hospitable to cyclists.
"The roads are in good condition, motorists are friendly, and there's beautiful scenery," she said.
There also will be about 140 county residents participating in the bike ride, Ms. Bernstein said. "The county has always had the largest representation in Maryland of cyclists on the tour," she said.
Matt Schnaubelt, 15, will ride in the tour for the first time. "It's pretty cool that I'll be so close to home at the end of the tour," said the Centennial High School sophomore.
He said schoolmate Eric Beaser, 15, talked him into joining the tour. "I really haven't been on any long rides before," Matt said. "I feel I should have trained more."
Carol Rhodes, a Beaverbrook resident who will participate in the tour, said she's excited the group will ride through her neighborhood, which is adjacent to Ellicott City.
"I'm expecting all my neighbors to be out there cheering," said Mrs. Rhodes, whose son is a senior at Centennial High School.
She began training for the tour indoors in January and outdoors in April, she said. "I'm calling this my midlife crisis," said Mrs. Rhodes, 45.
The riders will travel an average of 55 miles a day on the 320-mile tour, Ms. Bernstein said. They will begin arriving at Centennial High School between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, she said.
The riders will be leaving about 8 a.m. Saturday for the final leg of the ride to Baltimore.