Since its start in 1980, the Athens Twilight Criterium in Athens, Ga., has grown into a major event not only for bicycle racing in the Southeast, but for downtown businesses in the famed college town.

An estimated 30,000 people come to watch races - and eat and drink - along a loop course on the fourth weekend in April every year.

For years, the Low Country Racing team and sponsors have been trying to capture that Athens magic in Charleston on the weekend before Athens, but haven't managed to do so.

Races in the I'On community on Saturdays drew some homeowners out but also annoyed others. And the races in Hampton Park on Sundays attracted mostly friends and a few park users, and generated little benefit to local business.

So Low Country Racing is taken a different tact, holding the races three weeks earlier and changing the venue to North Charleston's event-friendly Park Circle area.

The Park Circle Criterium Weekend will feature races 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, basically starting with races by older riders, novice women and junior, and ending with professional men and other advanced riders.

"We're trying to make it more spectator-friendly," says Greg Jones, an avid cyclist, competitor and owner of Ride Bikes, one of the sponsors of the event.

Saturday's races will use North Charleston's Olde Village business district along East Montague Avenue, Jenkins Avenue, Crawford Street and Virginia Avenue, the latter of which will be partially open to traffic. Sunday's races will use streets adjacent to and near Quarterman Park, namely Buist Avenue, Olde Park Road and Rugheimer Avenue.

To encourage younger riders and female novices to participate in races, entry is free.

Outdoor Expo

As winter's unusually long grip loosens, it's time to explore all that the Lowcountry has to offer in terms of outdoor activities.

The Lowcountry Active Outdoors Expo seeks to share the array of opportunities at an event 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at Joseph P. Riley Park.

Exhibitors will include those representing golf, tennis, cycling, surfing, sailing, kiteboarding, fishing, water skiing, skateboarding kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, as well as local recreation department sports activities.

The Stella Artois Cidre VIP Blues Brunch will be 11 a.m.-2 p.m., with a portion of the $25 fee going to the Sewee Association.

Three 5Ks

With a week to go before the 37th Cooper River Bridge Run and Walk, there are three opportunities for runners and walkers to test their legs in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Folly Beach.

The inaugural Book'n It 5K will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Palmetto Islands County Park in Mount Pleasant.

"We have made the entry fee extremely affordable because we wanted to make the race affordable to all and encourage a lot of first-time runners and walkers," says Chris Cook, noting that the entry is $6 for children under 10 and $16 for those over 10.

Cook adds that 100 percent of the proceeds of this race will go to train teachers in 15 Title I schools across the state where literacy is a major problem.

The inaugural Match to Marrow 5K Run and Walk will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Wannamaker County Park in North Charleston.

The event, which cost $30 Thursday and Friday, and $35 on Saturday, benefits the Be The Match registry and is being organized by North Charleston Police officer Chris Ware, who donated his bone marrow in 2009 to a patient in need of a life-saving transplant.

Finally, the Coffin Island 5K is a pirate-themed 5K run and walk, with a prize for the best-dressed pirate, that kicks off the 24th annual Folly Beach Sea & Sand Festival at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of the Edwin S. Taylor fishing pier.

There is a bit of history involved, according to organizers, because Folly Beach used to be known as "coffin land" or "coffin island." Ships entering Charleston Harbor after a long voyage would drop off sick and dying cholera passengers so as to avoid quarantine restrictions on the mainland. The dead were eventually buried "in coffins" on the island.

The fee for the 5K is $30.

One big walk

The second annual Wright Walk for children's health kicks off at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant on Friday and finishes at the Statehouse in Columbia on Monday.

John Wright, who has done similar walks for the cause in Ohio (Cincinnati to Columbus) and to Columbia last year, seeks to raise awareness for childhood obesity, particularly in South Carolina.

For more, see the Wright Walk 2014 Facebook page.