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Good Riddance To A Bike Tire’s Worst Enemy: Tribulus Terrestris, aka The Dreaded Goathead

Jimmy Hallyburton is executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project
Boise Goathead Fest
Jimmy Hallyburton is executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project

Trying to rid the community of a particularly nasty invasive species is a noble cause. But celebrating that effort with one of the nation’s biggest bicycle festivals is a real head-turner. Indeed, that’s the centerpiece of the Boise Goathead Fest, a pedal-powered, “wonderfully weird” party that salutes the removal Tribulus terrestris, aka Goatheads.

Soon after moving to the Treasure Valley, newcomers get a first-hard look at the dreaded goathead when they spot the thorn-like weeds puncturing their bicycle tires.

“And they're like, “What the heck is this stuff?” And we all know it way too well around here,” said Jimmy Hallyburton, executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project and Boise City Councilman. “They grow on these vines on the side of the road. They outcompete most other plants in this desert environment, and they're about the worst thing in the world for bicycles.”

Hallyburton visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the 2021 edition of the Boise Goathead Fest, including all of the safety protocols necessary to make this year’s event possible.

“We celebrate all this effort of pulling these goatheads with one of the largest bicycle festivals in the entire country.”
Jimmy Hallyburton

Boise Goathead Fest 2021! THE BIKE BOOM!

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. To be sure, there are more than a few festivals on the calendar. There is one in Idaho that promises at least three things: It's pedal powered, wonderfully weird and bonafide Boise. It is the Boise Goathead Fest. All festivals have had to find a new balance while we continue to navigate a pandemic. Let's talk about the Goathead fest and how it will keep pedaling.  With the festival set for this Saturday, August 28th, we're spending a few minutes this morning with Boise Councilman and Boise Bicycle Project executive director Jimmy Hallyburton. Councilman, good morning.

JIMMY HALLYBURTON: George, it's so great to be with you this morning. In this, the hat that I'm wearing right now, it's just Jimmy from the Boise Bicycle Project and Goathead Fest. So, we can keep the city council stuff on side.

PRENTICE: Consider it done. I guess we should take note of the fact that the recently released census reminds us of how many thousands of people have moved to the area lately. So, there might be more than a few people who don't know what the dreaded goathead is.

HALLYBURTON: Yeah, Tribulus Terrestris is the scientific name. And what happens is people move here to Boise and they ride their bicycle for the first time, and they kind of peel off on the side of the road and all of a sudden they have hundreds of thorns in their tires. And they're like, “What the heck is this stuff?” And we all know it way too well around here. The invasive species is the goathead, that puncture your tires. They grow on these vines on the side of the road. They outcompete most other plants in this desert environment, and they're about the worst thing in the world for bicycles.We donate thousands of bikes to kids every single year - the Boise Bicycle Project - and within weeks or months, sometimes shorter, they have flat tires from these goatheads. And so, we are trying to remove those from the side of the road, get rid of this invasive species, and have a little fun doing it in the process.

PRENTICE: So, let's talk about the big challenge to get picking. And I guess we're talking… what? Tens of thousands of pounds?

HALLYBURTON: Yes. We started we started pulling goatheads this year in June, and we've pulled over 12,000 pounds this year. And the bike project, we kind of focus around a lot of our lower income neighborhoods and a lot of our lower income schools, because we know that the kids are walking and riding their bikes to school every day and probably don't have access to a lot of other forms of transportation. And so, some of these areas that we've been pulling goatheads down for over four years, we're starting to see less and less. And in some neighborhoods, we're seeing none at all. So, we can tell that we're making a difference here. And, of course, the problem is bigger. It's all across the valley and it's even in other states at this point. But bit by bit, we're getting rid of these goatheads in some key areas. We're keeping people riding, walking and from spreading to new areas as well. And so, it's so exciting to see that it's actually making a difference and that we're making a little bit easier to ride around this town because of these volunteer efforts.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about the upcoming weekend and all of the events. Up front, talk to me about safety protocols.

HALLYBURTON: Absolutely. August 28th is the big day - Boise Goathead Fest. We celebrate all this effort of pulling these goatheads with one of the largest bicycle festivals in the entire country. And it all kicks off with a pedal powered parade where people are the stars. They come in costume, dressed-up families, kids… everybody in front of the Capitol building. And we go for a parade where we really get to celebrate being in a community with each other. It doesn't matter who you are, what kind of bicycle that you have, we want you to be there. You've been negatively affected by goatheads, too. So, it's a way for us to come together. And then we have this big party in the park afterwards, where we have a pedal powered stage and all sorts of different bicycle fun things. And of course, we've got COVID going on as well. And so, we have to take that really seriously. And it's been something that every festival has been thinking about this last year. How do we continue to build community? How do we find ways to come together and make sure that we're doing that safely? And so that's what we're doing, On August 28th, down there at the Capitol building, is we are having folks come together, but we've got some precautions that we need folks to take. We know that being outside is one of the best things that we can do.

So, we already have that going for us. It's going to be a beautiful day - 82 degrees outside. But we are making people bring down masks. And so, you'll need to have a mask with you at all times. And at the beginning of the parade, that's kind of where the most people are together. We've got a huge area out in front of the Capitol building, blocked off - four major streets blocked off. And so, we'll need people wearing masks at the beginning of the parade once they start cruising down the streets. We've been informed by health care professionals that they can take them off at that point. When they get back to the park and they're waiting in line to get into the festival, we'll need them to put them on again. You know, that's kind of when people are kind of congregated up, and then once they get in, we'll have enough room that people will really be able to have a choice of what feels comfortable. And our goahead festival organizers want to make sure that we never put anybody in a position where they don't feel comfortable. So, with these precautions in place, we're very confident. And with the conversations that we've had with the health care providers, we’re confident that we can host this important event safely.

PRENTICE: Where do the funds go? What programs, what efforts do they support?

HALLYBURTON: So, all of the funds this year support the Boise Bicycle Project and our effort to get more people on bicycles. And for us, that's a lot of the kids in the community who maybe don't have that that universal feeling of freedom that a lot of those have experienced by having a bicycle at a young age. And so, this really allows us to expand the amount of people that we're getting bicycles to, as well as our programs that keep those bicycles running - our repair programs or mobile repair programs, usually ones that are helping these kids fix flat tires that are caused by goatheads. And so, the funds raised at the festival through the beer sales - Lost Grove Brewery will be down there selling beer. We've got all sorts of great music. The Morrison Center has sponsored all of our music. So, they're bringing in some great local and regional musicians down there. All the funds generated from… the event that is free to come into…but while you're there, the money that you spend goes to these programs and really helps us get more people on bikes and build the stronger bicycle community for everyone.

PRENTICE: And we'll link on our website, but remind us of the web address.

HALLYBURTON: People can go to boisegoatheadfest.com. And it has all sorts of information on there about when the parade starts, the entertainment, all that sort of lineup, how to register for the parade, because we really want people to register for the parade, so we know how many folks are coming down. You get prizes and stuff for doing that, volunteer opportunities, and then those COVID guidelines are on there as well. We want to make sure that people know what they're getting into, and know the precautions that we want them to take. We're encouraging people to be vaccinated. And we're also partnering up with Treefort Music Fest to have a vaccination clinic down there at the festival. So, if you're not vaccinated, we want you to wear your mask. We want you to be careful with us, but we also want you to come and get vaccinated at the festival. And it just so happens that it lines up perfectly with Treefort. a few weeks down the road from now. And so, we're putting safety at the pinnacle of our thoughts here. and community building as such.. an important part of what this festival can be if we can do it safely.

PRENTICE: Jimmy Haliburton is executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project. He just happens to be a Boise City Councilman. Jimmy, have a great time this weekend. The vaccination booth… the timing sounds ideal.

HALLYBURTON: It's perfect. We're so excited to be partnering with Treefort on this. All these music festivals that are out there - we're working together to figure out how we can hold these safely, because we know that the value that they have for our community and if the festivals don't happen, what we lose there. And so, we're all working together to make sure that we can bring these community building events to Boise in a very, very safe way. So come down, bring your mask. If you're not vaccinated already, you can get vaccinated at the festival. There's lots of ways to do it before the festival as well. Anything that we can do to make our community safer for everyone we're doing.

PRENTICE: Have a great time.

HALLYBURTON: Thanks, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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