Canandaigua bike rally named after transportation giant

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.

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