RAGBRAI, the annual bike ride across the state of Iowa, will cruise into Webster City for an overnight stay for the first time in 32 years this summer.
Thousands of riders will trek from Sioux Center to Cherokee, on to Lake View, to Webster City on July 24, then on to Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Anamosa and end up in Clinton.
Kent Harfst, assistant city manager and director of recreation and public grounds, and his son, Brady, were on hand at the announcement party Saturday night in Des Moines. Harfst said he had no inkling that Webster City would be named one of the eight overnight stops.
— Photo courtesy of Iowa New Now/Steve Pope
Members of the Dream Team, hold the names of the overnight towns for RAGBRAI XL (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). The route was announced on Saturday in Des Moines. Riders will start in Sioux Center, on July 22. Then riders will overnight in Cherokee, Lake View, Webster City, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Anamosa and end in Clinton, on July 28
"They keep so quiet about the towns until the announcement is made," he said. "We were very surprised and excited when we heard the news."
Last fall, Harfst put out the call for letters of support in hopes that Webster City would make the cut. The same thing was tried the previous year, but the route passed to the south.
Harfst said RAGBRAI officials have a history of selecting towns that may have faced some tough times.
"RAGBRAI has been very responsive to those needs," he said. When Maytag left Newton, that community was selected for the route. Parkersburg hosted the bike riders after it rebuilt the tornado that struck that community.
"Economically, it can have a big impact on those host cities," Harfst said.
RAGBRAI officials said a study conducted by the University of Northern Iowa two years ago showed the festival brings about $24 million in new spending to the state, or about $3 million for each host town. It is estimated that about 60 percent of the participants will come from outside of Iowa, and some from outside of the U.S.
In the next six months, there is much to be done, Harfst said. Next week officials with RAGBRAI will meet with a few of the local organizers to get the ball rolling.
"I've already been emailing with T.J. Juskiewicz (RAGBRAI director)," Harfst said.
After the initial meeting, he said committees would begin to be formed.
"I would envision that there would be housing committee, a food committee, entertainment and others, I'm sure," he said.
"The goal is to leave a good impression on all who stop in Webster City," he said. "And we want it to be fun and safe for all involved."
Coincidentally, the day bike riders arrive in Webster City is the same day the 95th Hamilton County Fair is scheduled to begin. Typically, the fair parade kicks off the week of fair activities on Tuesday night. Harfst said he would be talking with Holly Mortenson, Hamilton County Fair secretary.
"We'll all work together on this," he said. "We want both events to be very successful.
The exact road map of how the riders will arrive in Webster City is yet to be announced. That information should be coming in March, he said.