As the last RAGBRAI rider pedaled out of Webster City on Wednesday, many volunteers, vendors and others who helped make the overnight stay in our community an overwhelming success should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. To host an celebration for 20,000 new friends was no small task. Providing a fun and memorable event while ensuring the safety of all took months and thousands of hours of planning, organization and volunteer recruitment.
Kudos to the executive committee of Mayor Janet Adams, Chamber of Commerce Director Carrie Fitzgerald, Assistant City Manager Kent Harfst and Police Chief Brian Hughes. With their guidance and direction, sub-committees were able to work efficiently to plan for all the details - from the various entertainment to the many housing opportunities; from the information center to the maps providing riders with valuable directions around the community.
What a wonderful welcome the hospitality committee provided. Dozens of local residents lined Beach Street, waving, smiling and greeting the tired riders as they entered the community. It wasn't just the official volunteers; residents along the route also welcomed riders.
The hospitality committee was responsible to the brightly colored bicycles and bike parts placed in unique locations around the community. Many of the riders commented on those clever decorations and took photos of the neon cycles. The hand-painted photo opportunity standees were another popular spot the riders to create a memory of their time in Webster City.
The residents, businesses and organizations who provided camping spots and opened their doors to total strangers from all over the world epitomized the generosity and friendliness of this community. A little air conditioning and a shower meant a great deal to those who braved the 100-degree heat and wind of Tuesday'sride.
Law enforcement's presence was very visible throughout the whole event. Webster City Police officers and Hamilton County sheriff's deputies, along with those from other counties, were recruited to keep the peace. They made their way from campsites to food court to concert venue, often by golf cart, which was likely why there were so few major incidents.
First aid and medical personnel provided much needed care for those who were suffering from the intense heat of the day. Those volunteers worked at the first aid stations throughout the day and also were quick to respond wherever they were needed and that must have been reassuring to those visitors who were far from the comforts of home.
Food vendors offered a diverse menu of delicacies, cold drinks and ice cream treats lined Des Moines Street. Churches prepared home-cooked meals and homemade pie - a particular favorite of the riders according to sources. Local restaurants proved to be cool havens from the heat for our visitors to enjoy a good meal.
The other communities in Hamilton County who rallied volunteers and provided rest breaks to the riders proved how well a small but determined group of people can carry off an event with great success. From the Luau on the Loop in Stratford to the warm welcome by Kamrar's 200 residents and the stops in Jewell and Ellsworth, the riders' will likely long remember the hospitality offered in Hamilton County.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing in Webster City was how quickly the cleanup occurred after the concert. Barricades were removed, streets were cleaned and the city returned to its normal functions. By Wednesday morning, one could hardly tell that such a big celebration had happened just a few hours earlier.
There were so many who made RAGBRAI's stay a great success, too many, perhaps, to name here without missing someone. Just know that your valuable contributions were greatly appreciated.
So, thank you Webster City and Hamilton County. Your generosity and hard work are second to none and we're certain your efforts will serve as a guide for future host communities.