RAGBRAI, the (Des Moines) Register's 41st Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa rolls east from Council Bluffs Sunday morning.
Riders got to dip their tires in the Missouri River at Tom Hanafan River's Edge Park and take in some of the music being performed during a concert Saturday at the Mid-America Center.
Towns along the route are getting ready for lots of visitors. Dennis Fowler of Omaha stopped for a photo of the entrance to Shelby, an arch of bikes. Excited about his first time in RAGBRAI, he had to get a sneak peak at the experience. "Seeing the hills, seeing the terrace, seeing the windmills of Avoca over here, just really seeing Iowa, you go a lot slower on a bicycle than you do on a car.”
When thousands of other riders like Fowler see these sites, they'll also get to experience some of the small town life in Iowa. Towns like Shelby are ready to welcome them, complete with bike displays along Main Street.
City Councilwoman Sheila Rihner says for nearby businesses, it's a great benefit. "It's a huge impact because some of our businesses here will make as much money as they can make all year in one day.”
In nearby Minden, also along the route, the grocery store has been stocking up on supplies for the riders. "We've got the Gatorade, we've got the water, we've got our milk and we've got our fruits," said store manager Leora Dittmer.
With 15,000 to 20,000 participants passing through small town Iowa, others get just as excited about the exposure the ride brings to these small areas. “They're so friendly, they love to stop and visit, especially when a lot of these people are coming in from out-of-state and they like to learn about Iowa," said Dittmer.
Businesses along the route are getting ready in a variety of ways. Some are offering special deals while others are expanding the menu.
The Minden Meat Market is offering chocolate-covered bacon for RAGBRAI this year. The small crew has spent more than 30 hours preparing around 1,200 pieces of the treat. The delicacy's inventor thought this could be something different for riders. "I saw it at the state fair and they said that the RAGBRAI riders like things on a stick," said the meat market's Jessica Pohlman.
The market has tripled its staff for the weekend.