RAGBRAI: Here’s what you need to know

Greene County residents are gearing up to host more than twice the population of the county when the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa – RAGBRAI® – overnights in Jefferson next Monday.

Matt Wetrich, one of the eight members of the executive committee, reports 18,000 bicyclists have registered for the ride. Adding support personnel and non-riders, he said it’s easy to estimate nearly 25,000 persons in Jefferson Monday night. The committee expects many riders to join the river-to-river ride in Jefferson via the Raccoon River Valley Trail.

Organizers have every detail and contingency planned for, from the location of porta-pots to preparedness for dangerous weather. Most of that information is located on the local RAGBRAI website, jeffersonragbrai.com

While residents don’t need to know every detail, they should know what to expect regarding routes and road closures.

RAGBRAI riders will come into the county on County Road E-63. They’ll ride eastbound to Highway 25, then north to Scranton, where organizers have enlisted a wide variety of vendors. See a related post elsewhere in GreeneCountyNewsOnline.

Leaving Scranton, they’ll ride County Road E-53 into Jefferson. Riders will use the expected lane of travel; motorists are asked to use other routes if possible, and to use extreme caution should they need to share the road with RAGBRAI.

Bicyclists will start Monday morning in Denison. The most ambitious riders could be in Scranton as early as 10 am. Per the Iowa State Patrol, riders cannot leave Denison before 6 am. They must leave Scranton by 5:30 pm.

Riders are expected to get to Jefferson possibly by 10 or 11 am, with the majority of them arriving between 2 and 6 pm. Support and equipment vehicles could start arriving as early as 8 am.

Riders will come into Jefferson on W. Lincoln Way, most likely appreciating the view of the Mahanay Memorial Bell Tower as they pedal the last bit of the “Highway to Bells.” Information booths will be at Hoyt & Morain Law Firm office at Grimmell Road and at the Greene County Community Center. Again, motorists are reminded to use extreme caution as bicycle traffic will be significant.

Streets will be closed around the downtown square for set-up starting Sunday afternoon. Closures will be done as set-up progresses.

Street closures will be as follows:
• Lincoln Way from Elm St to the fairgrounds
• State St from the Uptown Café to the Sierra Community Theatre
• Vine St from the alley north of the public library to the alley north of the post office
• Wilson from the alley north of the former Pizza Ranch to Harrison St;
• Chestnut St from E. Washington St to the Thomas Jefferson Gardens/Welcome Center

There will be no parking on Lincoln Way and Chestnut St on Monday for the safety of bicyclists. Also, the city ordinance prohibiting RV parking on the street will not be in effect July 23-24.

Entertainment will be at the northeast corner of the downtown square, with the stage set diagonally in the intersection of N. Chestnut and E. State Sts. There is no cover charge for entertainment and residents are welcome.

The entertainment line-up is:
• 4:30 – Adam Pope and the Rebel Roots
• 5:30 – Bad Authority
• 6:30 – The Pale Moons
• 7 – Chad Elliott & The Redemptions
• 8 – Wild Ambition
• 9:30 – Hairball

All city parks are designated for charter group camping. The main campground for riders not in charter groups will be at Greene County High School, with RVs using the fairgrounds. Overflow camping will be at Wild Rose Casino.

A variety of food vendors will be on the south side of the downtown square; there is no admission charge to enter the area. Vendors will have pizza, Haitian food, barbecue, Mediterranean food, Asian food, tacos, kettle corn and more.

Eight Jefferson churches and organizations are joining the effort to feed so many people. Menus in the community include pulled pork at Trinity Lutheran; chicken & noodles or chicken casserole at First United Methodist; hamballs and cheesy potatoes at First Presbyterian; lasagna at St Joseph Catholic; pork loin and cheesy potatoes at The Sanctuary; a smoked baked potato bar at the Elks lodge; spaghetti at the VFW post; and pasta served by the Greene County Early Learning Center at the middle school. Pie will be the featured dessert at many of the meals.

The committee is still in need of volunteers to help Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Visit jeffersonragbrai.com for information.

Residents can expect their cellular phone service to be sub par with so many people using their phones. Jefferson Telecom is bringing in an extra cellular tower, but data services still may be sluggish and there may be more dropped calls than normal.

The children’s department at the Jefferson public library will be closed Monday, but the adult department will be open until 10 pm to serve RAGBRAI visitors. See a related posted on GreeneCountyNewsOnline.

The Greene County Community Center will close Monday at 3 pm as the Jefferson park and recreation department hosts an adaptive cycling team. The Community Center will re-open Tuesday at 7 am.

Riders will leave Jefferson Tuesday morning via E-53 past the Greene County Fairgrounds. They’ll turn north onto Highway 144 at Grand Junction and cross Highway 30 there. They’ll continue on Hwy 144 to County Road E-26 at Dana, and continue on to Boone County.

“Hosting this many people is a gigantic job that takes literally hundreds of people to pull off,” Matt Wetrich said. “We’ve done what we need to do and we’re ready. We’re excited to showcase everything we have here. We’ll put our best foot forward in the hopes that some of these thousands of people will come back sometime, or maybe even move here.”

Toni Wetrich added, “People have really been stepping up to volunteer for the day, to host people, to work with their organizations or churches….it’s really a community-wide event so it’s great to see it all starting to come together and people coming together so we can show all the hospitality we can to our guests.”

The executive committee includes Matt and Toni Wetrich, Thomas and Susan Laehn, Philip and Bridgette Heisterkamp, Ian Wilkinson, Brett Cranston, and treasurer Nikki Uebel.

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