The John North Willys Bicycle Rally honors a Canandaigua native who owned a bike shop in Canandaigua and went on to become a captain of the auto industry
CANANDAIGUA — You know who John North Willys is, don’t you?
Even if you don’t, you can still take part in the Ontario County Historical Society’s second annual John North Willys Bicycle Rally, which takes place at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at Outhouse Park.
Willys, a Canandaigua native, first owned a bike factory and shop in Canandaigua in the 1890s. Later, he went on to form the Willys-Overland motorcar company, an automobile manufacturing company second only in size at the time to the Ford Motor Company, according to Ed Varno, executive director of the Ontario County Historical Society.
Varno said his legacy is all around to this day.
The Jeep, his concept, is perhaps the best known American “car” after the Ford Model-T and is found virtually everywhere. Willys’s proposal for the design of the iconic Jeep was selected by the United States military in the 1940s as its general purpose vehicle. The GP, or Jeep, name has endured.
Willys was second only to Henry Ford as a captain of the United States automobile industry, Varno added.
This bicycle rally, which is not a race, is named in his honor so that his legacy may live on, Varno said. Participants can enjoy a 10-mile or 25-mile ride, which begins at 9 a.m. Sunday and ends at Outhouse Park. Registration starts at 8 a.m. with information tables and an on-site bike shop representative to help with last-minute adjustments and tire pressure checks and inflation.
A donation of $25 per person can be made in advance of the rally; $30 the day of the event. Money raised will be used to support the operation on the historical museum, 55 N. Main St., Canandaigua. The first 100 riders to sign up will receive a free ride shirt.
Registration can be made by calling the Historical Society at 585-394-4975, or follow the link online at www.ochs.org.