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RAGBRAI cyclists celebrated in Wellman, Kalona and Riverside
Friday was the perfect day for a leisurely bike ride, and nearly 30,000 people had the same sentiment.
RAGBRAI rolled through Wellman, Kalona and Riverside Friday, bringing scores of riders – and a sea of spandex – from across the country to the area as they trekked from Sigourney to Iowa City.
Months of planning by committees in each town came to fruition as organizers saw the results of their efforts.
“As a whole, I think it was a positive experience for the town,” Councilman and Wellman RAGBRAI co-chair Mark Philpot said. “I think it gave an opportunity for us to show the best the town has to offer.”
Eighth Avenue was lined with vendors and clogged with riders walking their bikes up to Highway 22.
There was a map on a building that riders could sign their hometowns. West Virginia was the only state not represented.
Mayor Ryan Miller said reports from vendors varied.
“From what I heard from vendors it was a mixed response,” Miller said. “Some did better than expected and others not as much. I think it depended on what was being sold but there were so many people through downtown, it was probably too many people which discouraged them from stopping and eating.”
Philpot summed up the day saying, “This is the biggest thing that ever happened or probably will ever happen in Wellman.”
Kalona was the designated meeting town, where riders and their support vehicles crossed paths.
B Avenue took on a festive atmosphere as riders and locals alike enjoyed the downtown music and sampled the various offerings from the 30 or so vendors.
“I talked to some local vendors, and quite a few of them sold through everything they had,” Kalona City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh said. “Others had a little bit left over.”
He said one lesson learned was that those vendors who marketed in advance did better than those who did not.
“It takes a lot of marketing and letting people know ahead of time what you have to offer,” he said. “There’s definitely a learning curve.”
Schlabaugh added that feedback from residents and businesses was “nothing but positive.”
As one of the last stops of the day, the atmosphere in Riverside was subdued and relaxed.
While many riders passed through the town, others stopped to enjoy the shade of Hall Park.
Local RAGBRAI organizer Kevin Meller said the mild Friday temperatures actually hindered the city’s efforts.
“I think the weather being so cool actually hurt our stop,” Meller said. “We were banking on riders moving along the route quicker and seeing all of our tents and shade and staying in Riverside.”
The Captain James T. Kirk statue and the USS Riverside, though, were popular attractions, with riders lining up to take photos.
Meller said that food sales fell below expectations.
“The big thing that stands out is getting our food vendors and a smaller beer tent right on the route,” he said. “We would also put the bike parking behind the vendors. We had trouble getting people to move more than 200 feet into the park.”
Still, feedback from riders was positive.
“The feedback we got from riders was extremely encouraging and entirely positive,” Meller said. “We had numerous riders tell us we were their favorite stop and encouraged us to try to be an overnight town.”