Organizers tried to find a safe setup, but finally had to cancel annual CT United Ride

In a year when virtually every large gathering has been canceled, it was likely inevitable that the annual CT United Ride would be among the events that had to be called off.

Ride CEO Fred Garrity has reluctantly pulled the plug on the annual 9/11 tribute citing safety concerns and lack of time to find an alternate starting location after the ride’s traditional Norwalk departure point fell through.

“Unfortunately, in the end, after multiple planning and pre-approval meetings, we are unable to confidently provide an event in a fail-safe atmosphere, when the possibility exists that thousands of people will gather from multiple towns and multiple states, all in one place,” Garrity wrote on the ride’s official website.

Ride organizers had spent months trying to work out details that would have made it possible to stage the event, that annually draws thousands of motorcyclists for a non-stop, uninterrupted ride from Norwalk through 10 towns and ending at Bridgeport’s Seaside Park. But in the end, organizers could not solve the ride’s beginning.

“We had the approvals from the communities that we ride through, and from Bridgeport, that we could have the event with mandatory masks and social distancing,” Garrity said. “But the city (Norwalk) had safety concerns about the people gathering at the start.”

The ride normally draws more than 2,000 riders, although Garrity said this year’s ride likely would have been very well attended due to the fact that it was the 20th and that the coronavirus quarantine had people eager to participate in outdoor events.

According to Garrity, he had planned a series of safeguards including dispersing the toilet facilities and adding portable speakers so riders wouldn’t gather near the podium. Ultimately though, the anticipated gathering was simply too large.

The idea of an alternate starting point was briefly considered, then dropped, he said.

“Within the time frame we had, we just couldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s not something you can just drop in. The route is established over the past 20 years. And with the state, and the 10 towns, you need close to 35 signatures to change something.”

So the goal now is to get started planning the 2021 ride, which will be on Sept. 11, 2021, Garrity said. If there is a silver lining it is that the annual ride will now correspond to the anniversary year.

“This would have been the 20th CT United Ride, even though it’s been 19 years since the attacks,” Garrity said. That numerical discrepancy came about because the inaugural ride took place just weeks after the 9/11 attacks. This meant that the second annual ride took place in 2002, the first anniversary of 9/11.

“At least now we’ll be in sync, the 20th annual ride will be 20 years to the day,” he said.