UWL professor is Volunteer of the Year

La Crosse Convention and Visitor’s Bureau honors Longhurst.

La Crosse Convention and Visitor’s Bureau honors Longhurst

James Longhurst, associate professor in the UWL Department of History, has been recognized as the 2017 Volunteer of the Year by the La Crosse County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Through “Explore La Crosse,” the bureau builds awareness of La Crosse County as a tourism destination through media and events. One event, the La Crosse Area Labor Day Bicycle Festival, offers a variety of free bicycling events over the four days of Labor Day weekend to promote the area as a bicycling destination. Now in its seventh year, the festival schedules daily road rides through the Driftless Region from 25 to 125 miles in length, along with shorter in-town social rides, family-friendly ice cream excursions, history tours, mountain biking and more.

UWL Associate Professor James Longhurst, left, receives the 2017 Volunteer of the Year award from Explore La Crosse Executive Director A.J. Frels.

Longhurst, who researches the history of bicycling and is the author of the book “Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road,” began attending the festival in its second year and volunteering for it shortly thereafter. By 2014, he was helping to plan events, and by 2015, as two of the three original founding members moved on, he began working as volunteer organizer.

Bicycle La Crosse was founded seven years ago by the then-executive director of Explore La Crosse, Dave Clements; then-City Planner Larry Kirch; and cycling advocate and mechanic Dan Novak. Clements has retired and Kirch has moved on, leaving only Dan Novak as one of the original three.

Bicycle La Crosse, as a project of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, promotes year-round bicycling in the Driftless Region by offering free, downloadable maps for road riding at bicyclelacrosse.com. The routes are the foundation for the Labor Day Bike Fest, which introduces the challenging and scenic geography of the Driftless Region.

Longhurst is a member of the newly-formed UWL Tourism Research Institute and coordinator of Public and Policy History at the university, which emphasizes history outside of the traditional classroom.