Rumors regarding the future of the Dirty Kanza in Emporia have been swirling around the community since Life Time Fitness purchased the race last year.
Those rumors only intensified after this year’s race came to a close over the weekend. Would the race be moving to Manhattan?
Jim Cummins, race co-founder and chief gravel officer, said discussions about moving the race somewhere other than Emporia have never been on the table.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Cummins said in a written release. “I want to assure all Emporians that no such considerations have ever been made. And no such discussions with any community other than Emporia, Kansas, have ever occurred.”
Cummins said the story of the DK is the story of Emporia. Without the support of the local community, the event would never have grown to what is it today.
“I have spent the past 14 years in the role of Executive Director of Dirty Kanza Promotions, and now with the recent acquisition by Life Time, in my new role as Chief Gravel Officer,” Cummins said. “During this time, I have often been asked what makes Dirty Kanza the ‘World’s Premier Gravel Race?’ My answer is always the same: ‘The community of Emporia, Kansas.’”
For more than a decade, the City of Emporia has offered resources through the Emporia Police Department, Emporia Fire Department and public works. Emporia Main Street and a variety of non-profit organizations, along with volunteers, local vendors and more have worked together to make the DK what it is today.
“We sometimes take for granted what a special place Emporia, Kansas is,” Cummins said. “Other communities simply don’t dedicate the resources Emporians do to achieve success. There are thousands of cumulative hours dedicated to an endeavor like Dirty Kanza. Many communities would be willing to write a check to host an event that generates the positive impact of DK. But very few would be able — or willing — to muster the human capacity necessary to pull off an event of this scale. The amount of experience accrued by these groups and individuals is simply irreplaceable. Because of the hard work and sacrifice of so many Emporians, thousands of people fell in love with our area this week, and all citizens of our region will reap the benefits of that emotional connection for generations to come.”
The DK was founded in 2006 by Cummins and fellow gravel enthusiast Joel Dyke. That first year the DK welcomed just 34 riders. Four years later, Cummins welcomed Tim and Kristi Mohn to DK Promotions, bringing a new vision for the race into the fold.
“That was the year we decided to move the start and finish from a motel parking lot to downtown Emporia,” Cummins said. “Casey Woods was the new Main Street Director, and Jessica Buchholz was the new Granada Theatre director. Together, we had a vision and worked with the City of Emporia to grow the event. That year we had 250 riders, with a block party that was about one third of one block.”
The event continued to grow.
“Through the years, we added another co-owner, LeLan Dains, and another employee, Treva Worrel,” Cummins said. “Then just last year, Dirty Kanza Promotions became part of the Life Time family. Along the way, we have worked hard, enjoyed a bit of good luck and experienced significant growth.”
In 2019, more than 3,200 riders and 10,000 supporters rolled into Emporia from all around the world.
None of that would have been possible if not for the people of Emporia, Cummins said.
“On behalf of the entire team at Life Time/Dirty Kanza and Emporia Main Street, I want to say ‘Thank You’ to everyone who volunteered or assisted in any way to make the 2019 Dirty Kanza such an amazing success, and for helping us showcase the community of Emporia, Kansas, to the world,” he said. “Dirty Kanza is the World’s Premier Gravel Race because of Emporia, Kansas, and its citizens. Emporia is the Home of Dirty Kanza.”