Le Tour de Fort: Fort Wayne’s Largest Bicycle Pub Crawl Celebrates 15 years of Supporting Veterans

In 2009, a small group of friends and family gathered for a small pub crawl as a going away party for Joseph Wasson before his return to active duty in the Army. The group spent the day bicycling from one local watering hole to another in matching shirts, from which the proceeds were donated to a local charity.

When Wasson returned home from Iraq the following year, he organized a second bicycle pub crawl with more riders and again donated the money from the shirt sales to local charities. 

Now, that pub crawl is known as Le Tour de Fort and it’s on its 15th year, returning on June 8 from noon to 7 p.m. It’s been penned as “Fort Wayne’s largest and most popular bicycle event.” This year leaders say they expect to see over 2000 riders participate.

The crawl starts on The Landing. Participants are able to arrive and check in on the day of with the Le Tour de Fort team volunteers to receive their tour information packets and t-shirts if they have not already done so prior to the event. 

“Kickoff will have some music playing. I give some brief announcements and turn them loose downtown,” Vince Corona, president of Le Tour de Fort says.

The tour takes participants to locally owned establishments, like The Deck at the Gas House, Deer Park, O’Sullivan’s, JK O’Donnell’s, Paddle City, Brass Rail, and Redwood Inn. In total, there are around 20 participating bars and clubs. Many of these establishments have food, drink, and even merch specials exclusively for Le Tour riders. During last year’s event, Green Frog even offered a Le Tour de Bec sandwich. The official specials are announced the day before the ride.

As the tradition grew throughout the years Wasson recruited his lifelong friend Vince Corona to help run the yearly event. As a Fort Wayne native and Army Veteran, Vince was the ideal choice to help and eventually take over when Wasson stepped down in 2017 to spend more time with his family. He says it feels as if his friendship with Wasson has come full circle.

“Our Founder, Tour Father, and my longest friend in life, Joe Wasson, sent me a picture of his son wearing a Le Tour de Fort t-ball jersey for the Foster Park opening Day; the 75th annual season for the park,” Vince explains. “I have been friends with Joe since attending kindergarten at Harrison Hill in 1989 and his son will soon be the age that we were when we met.”

In addition to serving as Le Tour de Fort’s president, Vince is also a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, US Army Ranger Association and is a draft board officer with the Selective Service System.

Vince’s father, Steve Corona, now owns Le Tour de Fort and says as the event’s popularity has continued to grow, participants often looked forward to the experience and the highly coveted t-shirts, designed by graphic designers Mark and Jacqui Russett. Every year, a new design to commemorate the event is revealed.

At its origin, Le Tour de Fort is all about building fellowship between riders and supporting veterans. Wasson initially structured the organization to raise awareness and money to support American Veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since taking over, the Coronas have continued to donate proceeds from the event to various veteran organizations. 

Advocating for the significance and importance of the military and its veterans, Steve and Vince have continued to build on the philanthropy of Le Tour de Fort with significant contributions to our local veteran community. In years past, Le Tour de Fort has supported a variety of organizations that support veterans, including The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Chapter #40 with three brand new shuttle vehicles, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #857, The Veterans National Memorial and Shrine on O’Day Road, Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana, and K9’s for Warriors.

Steve says they plan to donate $20,000 from this year’s event to Shepherds House, a local transitional living center for homeless veterans, and to the Veterans Memorial Shrine Museum, located on O’Day Road in Fort Wayne.

While philanthropy is at the forefront, Steve says the event is meant to be fun.

“Make sure there is air in your bicycle tires, ride with friends, and pace yourselves,” he advises. “It’s not a race, it’s a journey– a casual ride meant to be fun and of course, always obey all applicable laws.”

“Make sure your bike is in proper working order. Bring a bike lock and helmet and use them,” Vince says. “Lock up your bike wherever you go. Wear a helmet and make sure it fits correctly.”

“Every crowd will have a few wildcards, and our event is no different,” Vince continues. “But we really do have a well-behaved crowd, considering the nature of the event. We take the safety and security of our participants very seriously and hire a large team of law enforcement officers to reinforce that point.”

Learn more about Le Tour de Fort, its history, and how to get involved.

Courtesy: Le Tour de Fort

This feature is by Jessica Montalvo. This story is made possible by support from Downtown Fort Wayne in partnership with Input Fort Wayne.