Alta gets in gear for RAGBRAI XLVIII
Take about 10,000 bicyclists, send them through a town of just over 2,000 population, and you have the recipe for - to put it mildly - a big deal.
Altans have been planning for the opportunity since the day the 2021 RAGBRAI route was announced, with a committee now nearing completion of its plans.
What do they hope the participants in the world’s largest, oldest and longest week-long bike touring event remember about the town?
“Our hope is that they just find the community to be a very friendly place to come to. We’re looking forward to seeing them, and getting to visit with some of them,” says Kim Walsh of the Alta RAGBRAI committee.
Recently, a pre-RAGBRAI test group rode the route, and the Alta planners were able to talk with them about what the mass of riders will need from a pass-through community - tops on the list, water and shade.
Some of the churches and organizations are working on plans to provide water or ice pops and to help wet down those riders who need a cooling off. Shade is trickier for a community in the midst of an emerald ash borer crisis. Walsh said volunteers will direct riders who need a break to the city park, but they know that space won’t meet the need. The committee may go door to door to ask residents with good tree cover if riders can utilize their yards.
Day one of RAGBRAI XLVIII on July 25 will be a doozy. At 84 miles from starting point LeMars to Sac City, it will be the longest day of the ride route, and the steepest at 2,816 feet of climb. It also features the Mile of Silence, in memory of the cyclists killed on the roads.
The plan is for riders to leave LeMars on Highway 3, then head east on C38 through Cherokee, turning south onto Highway 7 to pass through Aurelia and Alta around the halfway point in the day, then jogging along short stretches of M31 and C65 to Highway 110 and 71. Early will be the last pass through town on the final leg to Sac City, where a night of entertainment is planned.
“Alta is a pass-through town. They will be coming south right down Main Street,” Walsh said. “We’re really excited about it - it’s going to be so much fun to see them come through town.”
The RAGBRAI committee expects to see some of the hard-core riders hitting town before 10 a.m., with the bulk of the action around lunchtime, and the activity shutting down around 3:30 in the afternoon.
Storm Lake’s loss may be Alta’s gain. Storm Lake was to have been the first overnight town in 2020, and was carried over to 2021 when the pandemic canceled the ride last summer. However, Storm Lake opted out of the event for this year, fearing volunteer burnout. When the first-day route was re-drawn, Alta got the ride-through opportunity it otherwise probably wouldn’t have had, Walsh said.
The ride represents an opportunity for local businesses and organizations to raise some funds by serving the riders’ needs, but it also comes with a big responsibility.
With just a few weeks left to prepare, the RAGBRAI committee is still needing volunteers to help with many duties. Some of the tasks will be as simple as directing riders on the route through town and where to find services they may need. If interested, please call Kim at 712-291-0542, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“As exciting as it is, it’s also a bit scary. That’s a whole lot of people moving through in a short time, and we have to be ready for it. I’ve seen what RAGBRAI looks like in Storm Lake in past years, but imagining it coming through your own small town is a whole different thing,” she says.
The RAGBRAI committee is also hoping to see more vendors come forward for food and other services. “We don’t have as many as we wish we had,” Walsh said. So far, plans are in place for grilling burgers, turkey fillets and pork loin sandwiches, along with some cool treats - but so far, no one has signed on to sell pie, a signature desire for RAGBRAI riders every year. There is also room for more ice cream type offerings, or carbo-rich foods like spaghetti. Vendor applications are available from City Hall.
The deadline has been extended to July 9 in hopes of boosting the offerings. While there is a $100 fee for RAGBRAI vendors, local non-profit organizations should easily be able to make that back, the committee feels.
They picked the brains of the test riders on their visit.
“They are telling us that many will ride right through, and some will like to hang out for a while and get the feeling of the towns they visit. Some are just going to be looking for a shady spot to rest, some will want to eat, and some will stop if there’s beer,” Walsh reports.
The Altans are also working on some fun ideas - possibly a photo booth. One of the churches may be providing live music, and a DJ is planned for Main Street. One church is considering a prayer tent for riders who are so inclined. Other plans are still in the works, and ideas are welcome.
For Alta, RAGBRAI could prove to be a needed shot of adrenaline, the committee feels.
“We used to have an Altatude Days celebration years ago that was a great event, but it has gotten harder to do things like that. Now the BV Fair is finally growing back, and we’re hoping that people will continue to get involved and be active.”
Walsh admits that there are some butterflies as the date draws near.
“It’s getting really close - we hope it all plans out, and that all those RAGBRAI riders enjoy themselves.”