Polish Moon Ride is a rolling block party on Milwaukee’s south side

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Accordion players perform during a past Polish Moon Ride in Milwaukee.

Polish and Mexican culture might seem like they are worlds apart — an ocean, at least — but the two mix on Milwaukee’s south side, and they’re celebrated every year during the Wisconsin Bike Federation’s Polish Moon Ride.

The evening ride on June 21 is like a rolling block party with music, food and neighbors coming out to watch the fun. Like the Bike Fed’s December ride, the Santa Cycle Rampage, this summer version is a family-friendly slow ride, except with norteña and polka instead of Christmas music and a loop route instead of a point-to-point trip.

The summer ride gets its name from the Rockwell Automation (formerly Allen-Bradley) Clock Tower, which is known as the Polish Moon. When it was built in 1962 the area was populated largely by Polish immigrants, and the clock’s four faces shined over the neighborhood like a moon. Today, Latino immigrants have brought their own culture and traditions to the south side.

The ride got its start in 2015 as a way to raise money for the Bike Fed’s mobile bike repair program, which trains and hires high-schoolers to do free bike repairs at events and locations around the city in the summer.

“We were trying to do something kind of close to home and engage more of our neighbors in our community and have a fun, family ride to help raise money for our programs,” said Jake Newborn, director of programming for the Bike Fed.

The Bike Fed’s office is at 36th and Pierce, near where the ride takes place.

The 2019 event kicks off with a party at 5 p.m. at Fuel Café, including empanadas, Polish and vegan sausages, and ice cream. Milwaukee’s Mx Rugido Norteña will perform norteña music, which has its roots in northern Mexico and is based on a polka or waltz tempo.

The music is “a nod to the old and the new” in that area of the city, Newborn said.

Musicians perform nortena music during a past Polish Moon ride on Milwaukee

The music continues when the ride gets going at 7, with musicians like accordion player Uncle Kenny and perhaps a tuba player performing from cargo bikes. Police provide a rolling roadblock as the crowd rolls through Walker’s Point — last year the ride stretched for 10 blocks. In 2017, it attracted between 400 and 500 riders, and Newborn hopes for as many this year.

The 8-mile ride finishes back at Fuel Café with music from Milwaukee’s Polish Moon Polka Trio and more food and beer, including Milwaukee Brewing Company’s Polish Moon milk stout.

More information: The party begins at 5 p.m. June 21 at Fuel Café, 630 S. 5th St. The ride begins at 7 p.m., and the after-party is at Fuel from 9 to 11 p.m. The Bike Fed is recommending cyclists have helmets and bike lights for the evening ride.

Early-bird registration through June 10 is $20 for adults, $35 for a tandem and $45 for a family of four (additional children are $10). After June 10 prices are $25 for adults, $40 for a tandem and $55 for a family. There will also be on-site registration. Registration gets you one Polish Moon beer or non-alcoholic drink, an empanada or Polish sausage, and one scoop of ice cream for kids.

For more and to register, see wisconsinbikefed.org.

Contact Chelsey Lewis at (414) 224-2144 or clewis@journalsentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel.

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