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Big turnout for breast cancer awareness
Participants depart Library Park Saturday for the fourth annual Ride the Tide. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Frank Alvarado couldn’t believe his eyes as he rolled into the parking lot at Library Park for the start of Saturday’s “Ride the Tide.”

His passenger and special guest, Blair Young, was equally as stunned by this small community’s big turnout. “Wow, this town,” she said in a shocked tone.

This couldn’t be the same desolate park Alvarado had left just hours earlier? Could it?

“I got there early to set up everything and there was nobody,” he said. “Nooobody.”

If there was any doubt “Ride the Tide” – Alvarado’s personal campaign against breast cancer – wasn’t fully embraced by the City of Manteca, it was eviscerated on Saturday.

A record turnout greeted Alvarado and Young, the outreach director for Boarding for Breast Cancer, the benefactor of Saturday’s fundraiser.

More than 120 people participated in the 13.4-mile ride along the Tidewater Bikeway. Many more joined the post-party at Library Park, which featured the band Fiveskin, a barbeque and information booths.

“We didn’t raise as much money as we have in the past,” Alvarado said, “but it was the most fun crowd we’ve had – and the biggest, too.”

Alvarado began the event four years ago, inspired by his lifelong friend Katy McKenzie’s courageous yet ill-fated fight against breast cancer.

Initially, Alvarado participated and raised more than $2,300 for the “Skate the Lake” event in Lake Tahoe. He borrowed the model to start “Ride the Tide.”

It hasn’t always been a smooth journey, but the support from relative strangers has helped him overcome all obstacles.

Alvarado thanked the City of Manteca and the Parks and Recreation Department for helping him secure insurance and all necessary permits. The process, he says, gets easier and easier each year.

He also thanked the Manteca Wave youth softball organization, which volunteered their time at Saturday’s festival.

 “If I didn’t have the support,” Alvarado said, “I probably wouldn’t do it. But when you show up and there are 125 people waiting…

“I saw this crowd and I got goose bumps. Blair, she only knows what I’ve told her about the event. She came up here for this one and was blown away. Here was little ol’ Manteca competing with Lake Tahoe. Our numbers match up with what’s going on in bigger towns.”

The route took on a few new turns this year. Alvarado added a loop around Woodward Park, much to the delight of the Saturday morning soccer crowd.

The seemingly endless parade of people on wheels – and what few there were on foot – drew cheers as they sailed past the Manteca Area Soccer League’s season-ending jamboree and tournament.

Kids marveled at skateboarder who sailed by in a low crouch. Another, on a cruiser bike wearing a mask, drew a few interesting stares and finger-pointing.

The out-and-back course began at Library Park and followed Tidewater Bikeway north toward Lathrop Road, looping around East Union High School and back toward Library Park.

Participants stayed on the path toward Moffat Boulevard and eventually circled Woodward Park.

With each quizzical stare or inviting wave, Alvarado parked his board to explain the movement. The event, he said, is about awareness as much as it is fund-raising.

“A lot of people were wondering what we were doing,” he said. “It started some really good conversations.”