The lights are off, and the ride is on! The City of Hammond and City of Whiting hosted its 11th annual WHAM After Midnight Ride early Sunday morning with glow-in-the-dark decor and decked-out cycles.
As a way for bikers to enjoy the scenic paths and neighborhoods around northern Northwest Indiana in the dark, registered riders followed along a 10-mile trail or the choice of a longer, 30-mile, course through multiple towns. The ride began at midnight and lasted until around 5:00 a.m. on August 7.
Milan Kruszynski, Port Authority Director of Hammond, said the yearly tradition was an idea from the former chief of staff over 10 years ago.
“They wanted to do some sort of ride through Hammond and Whiting, and it has grown to go through, now, Highland and Munster as well,” Kruszynski said.
Combining the town names to create the fitting acronym “WHAM,” the NWI ride was based on the hit midnight ride in downtown Chicago.
“[The former chief of staff] took it to the mayor, and the mayor is huge on bicycling,” Kruszynski said. “The mayor said ‘we need to do this.’”
Flash forward to 2022, many first-time participants like Davantae Carey are excited to take up the opportunity the towns are offering with this event.
“I’m looking forward to enjoying the weather and the ride,” Carey said.
For father-daughter duo Kass Casmir and April Grisham, bike riding is a regular hobby of theirs around the area.
“I’m riding a bike all the time,” Casmir said. “We just decided to come and check it out!”
And while riding around in the daylight is one adventure, nighttime is another.
“We take this path all the time, so we just thought it would be fun at night,” Grisham said.
Riders considered the time of day when preparing for the ride. With reflectors, LED lights, and light-up accessories, the colorful bike parade matched the rainbow lights decorating the Calumet Bridge which overlooked the starting line.
Kruszynski thanked local first responders for making this event possible with proper traffic control and safety precautions being taken during the middle of the night.
“A lot of different jurisdictions have come tonight to help us. Hammond officers are blocking the streets to keep them safe. Whiting helps us, Highland is here, Munster, Griffith, state police, the county police,” he said.
Before heading off, riders met at the Wolf Lake Pavillion to hear from the Mayor of Hammond, Thomas M. McDermott, Jr., and review safety procedures along the route.
McDermott also left participants with kind words of encouragement as they embarked on their five-hour trek.
“Love you guys, be safe out there, and thank you for participating in the 11th annual WHAM. I’ll see you guys on the streets. Have fun!”