By DUANE NOLLEN
The Oskaloosa Herald
Oskaloosa has six months to prepare to welcome RAGBRAI bicyclists to town as about 12,000 bike riders will stop in for a visit.
It’s been 10 years since the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa came to Oskaloosa and RAGBRAI officials met with Oskaloosa leaders Wednesday morning at the Oskaloosa Chamber office to begin planning for the event.
RAGBRAI riders come from all 50 states and 18 countries, RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz said.
“We’re going to give you a lot of good ideas,” he said.
Juskiewicz said RAGBRAI officials will come to Oskaloosa every two weeks to meet and go over plans for the bike ride’s overnight stop on July 25. After meeting in Oskaloosa, RAGBRAI officials they would stop in Fairfield and Fort Madison Wednesday, he said.
“This is a local event driven by local leaders,” Juskiewicz said.
Oskaloosa, like other over-night stop towns, will have an Advisory Board of local leaders to advise committee members on “what’s best for Oskaloosa,” Juskiewicz said. The Advisory Board will appoint the Executive Committee, which will oversee the 20 committees that will plan all aspects of Oskaloosa’s RAGBRAI festivities, he said.
RAGBRAI riders will travel just 52 miles from Knoxville to Oskaloosa, so people will have a longer time to enjoy Oskaloosa’s entertainment, Juskiewicz said.
Oskaloosa Chamber Executive Director Jon Sullivan asked about the number of meals the community should prepare for the crowd.
Juskiewicz replied that it’s hard to pinpoint at this time because factors such as weather cannot be foreseen. Weather will be a key factor in RAGBRAI, he added.
Should Oskaloosa prepare breakfast for riders in the morning for riders heading out to Fairfield?
“Very few eat breakfast” at the overnight stop, Juskiewicz said.
Sullivan also asked about campground arrangements.
Juskiewicz said to expect about 500 RVs to park in Oskaloosa. RAGBRAI has evolved from days when people would pitch a pup tent to sleep overnight. Now, many riders are part of clubs that ride the route and travel in RVs and SUVs.
“You have more than enough green space,” Juskiewicz said. Also, colleges and universities like people to use their facilities, and William Penn can help house RAGBRAI riders, he added.
Juskiewicz also said that the distance of about a mile from Edmundson Park to the Oskaloosa city square would not be too far for RAGBRAI participants to walk for food and entertainment. He also said that a few food vendors could set up at the park to help feed incoming bicyclists and support personnel.
Juskiewicz said that Oskaloosa now needs to get its planning committees up and running to start work.
Sullivan said a meeting will be held to determine the committee chairs.
Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org