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Gail Clark-Savage, the first nominee for the 2016 Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize, in front of the Lompoc Half Century Club. 

Bill Morson, Contributor

Gail Clark-Savage, a leader in spurring local welcome parties for the participants in the AIDS bicycle ride through Lompoc every June, has been announced as the first nominee for the seventh annual Valley of the Flowers Peace Prize.

Clark-Savage, a retired marketing assistant, has lived in Lompoc since 1990.

“My partner and I are a lesbian couple,” she said. “I’ve had a great many friends who are gay men and many of them died from AIDS. It made us very aware of the problem. And we have a friend who has ridden in the ride since its inception.”

AIDS/LifeCycle has bicycled the coast through Lompoc for 15 years. Last June, about 3,200 riders wheeled from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, raising $16 million to fight the disease.

For years, the riders camped at River Park after a short spin from Santa Maria, the briefest day of the weeklong trek. They arrived in Lompoc by midday Thursday, ready for a break from cycling, but often found themselves marooned at River Park and in annoyingly long lines at stores and banks.

“We were members of PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and we decided to do something about the inconveniences,” she said. “Four years ago we arranged with people in the community for rides from River Park into Lompoc. Then we ran into Chelsea Cochran at the Chamber of Commerce, who suggested we apply for a grant to fund some real signs to call attention to more people. We got the grant.

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“We arranged for the mayor to welcome the riders two years in a row. And we got some wonderful feedback from them. They think Lompoc is one of the best cities they ride through. So we hope they’ll come back at other times.”

Nominations for the annual Peace Prize will remain open to the public through Dec. 15. Anyone wishing to nominate a community member can do so by contacting Allie Kay Spaulding at alliekay31@comcast.net.

The prize will be awarded Jan. 29 during a ceremony at Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ. 

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