An estimated 1,500 people descended on Hope this morning for the 30th annual Hope Ride, an annual tradition that made for a sea of bicycle riders trekking along county roads in northern Bartholomew County.

Some said they were there for the challenge. Some said they were there for the exercise. But judging by the way participants hobnobbed with one another before the event, they were all there for a good time.

The event features rides of various lengths and includes stops along the way that features music and food.

"Registration has been crazy," said Carol Ashbrook, the wife of event coordinator Paul Ashbrook. She said that although the turnout wasn't a record, it was up fairly significantly from last year, when it rained.

Bike riders were just enjoying the moment - and sunshine.

Curtis Nolting, of Columbus, said he decided to ride the 25-mile route on the advice of his wife and riding partner, Meg. He joked that she bribed him by promising him good food at the route's conclusion; however, he said afterward that he was really looking forward to the fun of a new challenge.

Sue McCracken, of Bloomington, said she was in it mainly for the challenge of completing the 50-mile route. Building her conditioning to reach that point was a challenge, she said, because she suffered a minor injury in a bicycle accident.

"The bike didn't get hurt," she said as she patted her bicycle. "I just did."

Aniket Utkur, 36, of Columbus, said he made his first Hope Ride two years ago. It was so much fun that he was back with some friends, this time for the 25-miler.

He said he loves the atmosphere.

"I don't know of a lot of rides like this," he said. "It's casual and just so much fun."

Some of the riders participating in the event were part of larger groups. For example, Hope Elementary School was well represented with dozens of young riders who were set to ride 13 miles and finish on the Hope square.

"This is our fourth year," said Casey Boilanger, a 5th-grade teacher. "It's so important for exercise, but it's also so important for their self esteem. It shows the kids they can ride this far. It's inspiring to them."

Riley Craddy, 11, of Hope, was one of those young participants. She said she liked the race mainly because she gets to do it with her friends and her favorite teacher.

"I like doing it," she said.