Host towns have big plans for RAGBRAI's big anniversary
Gert Harken sat in deep contemplation with her friends at a table in Hy-Vee Hall Saturday night, a map of Iowa sprawled out between them.
Using RAGBRAI-designed beer glasses to represent different locations, Harken and the fellow members of the Cedar Valley Cyclists ― decked out in gold-sequined scarves, Mardi Gras beads, and for Harken, a homemade vest with all but three of the patches commemorating RAGBRAI's 50 years ― tried to predict the towns where the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa will go for its golden anniversary.
They were some of the hundreds of excited riders dressed in funky, colorful and sometimes animal-themed costumes who poured into the spacious auditorium Saturday night for the annual route announcement party. As riders grabbed beers, checked out this year’s RAGBRAI gear and bid in a silent auction, RAGBRAI-favorite cover band the Pork Tornadoes rocked out on stage, building up the hype for the announcement tens of thousands of riders around the nation and world had been waiting for.
The big reveal came just after 8 p.m., with bursts of cheers from the eager audience as each of the eight key towns was revealed. And for RAGBRAI enthusiasts who have followed the ride since its inception, this year’s route looked familiar, paying homage to the original bike ride in 1973 by starting in Sioux City, ending in Davenport and overnighting in three other towns on the original route: Storm Lake, Ames and Des Moines, with Carroll, Tama-Toledo and Coralville added in.
Ride director: 'RAGBRAI is definitely back'
Speaking after the announcement, RAGBRAI Ride Director Matt Phippen said the ride is back and bigger than ever.
"I thought RAGBRAI was back last year," he said, recalling the 2020 cancellation of the ride because of the COVID-19 pandemic. "RAGBRAI is definitely back this year."
More:From the route to registration, here’s everything you need to know about RAGBRAI’s 50th anniversary ride
People traveled from across the state and even the country for the party. Randy Giehls flew in all the way from Orlando, Florida, to hear this year’s route with his Cincinnati-based team, Hills Angels. Wearing the team’s jersey and a helmet with a lit-up pair of Viking horns, Giehls said he can’t wait for the ride’s 50th year ― his 18th as a rider ― no matter where in Iowa it goes.
“It’s like spending a week with 30,000 of my best friends,” he said.
Host towns say plans already in the works
Representatives of the towns lucky enough to host the historic ride this year said planning is already in the works to make each stop the biggest RAGBRAI party ever. Here's a town-by-town rundown.
More:What to know about the RAGBRAI L starting, ending and overnight towns
Sioux City celebrates revamped riverfront
Kristi Franz in Sioux City said she’s been working to prepare the town to host the start of the historic ride since she became executive director of Explore Sioux City a year and a half ago. Franz said the cyclists will have the opportunity to hold the traditional ride-opening Missouri River tire dip in the city’s newly built riverfront park.
Tournament site Carroll putting on diamonds
Heading east, riders will next stop in Storm Lake and then Carroll. The city’s parks and recreation director, Chad Tiemeyer, said the longtime site of Iowa high school baseball tournaments can expect an All-American baseball-themed party.
Ames unites town and gown
Then comes Ames, the home of Iowa State University, where the riders will get a chance to visit ISU's iconic Jack Trice Stadium and check out its new, $10 million pedestrian bridge. The University and downtown will be prominently featured during the town’s festivities, said Kevin Bourke, president of Discover Ames.
“Between the University, the city and the county we’ve got an amazing team put together and we are so fired up for this one,” Bourke said.
Des Moines to rock out in 'the heart of Iowa'
Just a 50-mile ride south of Ames is Des Moines, where Mayor Frank Cownie said the state’s capital is ready to put on a big party in “the heart of Iowa.”
Cownie and Greg Edwards of Catch Des Moines said the city likely will hold a concert with an “internationally acclaimed band” in Water Works Park, where the riders will set up camp.
Edwards promised that throughout the entire time riders are in Des Moines, “the downtown will be rocking.”
Tama-Toledo to put on a '70s show
The choice of the next stop on the ride, Tama-Toledo, shocked many in attendance Saturday night, But even though the neighboring cities are easily the smallest on the route, the executive director of the Tama County Economic Development Commission, Katherine Ollendieck, said they're ready to give the riders a memorable celebration.
“Next summer is the 50th anniversary of the ride, so in Tama-Toledo we are going to embrace all things 1973,” Ollendieck said, wearing a '70s-inspired sequined dress. “The clothes, the music, the vibe, the whole nine yards.”
The towns also won't stint on comforts, Ollendieck said.
“We know what riders need, they need great showers, they need pie, and they need amazing food and a killer beer tent,” she said. “And we’re going to bring all that plus a whole lot of fun.”
Coralville celebrates dual anniversaries
Riders will go from there to Coralville, where Josh Schamberger, president of the Commission of Visitors Bureau, said the city not only will be celebrating RAGBRAI’s 50th anniversary, but the city’s 150th.
“We would host every year if we were afforded the opportunity,” Schamberger said.
For Davenport, 50th tire dip 'a watershed moment'
To end off the 500-mile trek, the longest ride in RAGBRAI history, riders will get to dip their tires in the Mississippi River in Davenport, said Dave Herrell, president of Visit Quad Cities .
“From our perspective this is just a watershed moment. We’re excited to be part of just the culture and the energy and the DNA of RAGBRAI,” Herrell said.
Davenport also was the original ride's ending point, and Herrell said the weight of that history is not lost on the town as it prepares to “bring it” for the thousands of riders finishing their RAGBRAI journey.
“It’s so much more than just an event. It’s a cultural phenomenon. To be just part of that is a privilege and an honor,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: RAGBRAI's 50th rolling party will have plenty to celebrate for 50th year